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Spurs show no mercy to wounded Wizards in blowout win

After a slow start, the Spurs took advantage of their depth over a Wizards team missing half its roster.

NBA: Washington Wizards at San Antonio Spurs Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports

The Spurs did what they needed to do against a Wizards team coming off a two-week hiatus and missing half its roster on Sunday, and nothing more. They got a 121-101 blowout win that didn’t offer a lot of insight about the Silver and Black’s current level but allows them to get on the good side of .500 once again.

There was nothing fair about this matchup going into it, but the Spurs made sure to keep it interesting anyway. San Antonio has showed a propensity to play to their opponent’s level for most of the season, and did so against a Wizards team that was rusty, shorthanded and often out of control. The starters set the tone in a bad way early by failing to execute on offense and playing with little effort on defense, which resulted in exactly the type of chaotic atmosphere that Washington needed to thrive. Wild drives, questionable rebounding and crossmatches that resulted from a frantic pace were all common and allowed the visitors to carve up a double digit lead.

Luckily the bench came to rescue, as it has plenty of times this season. Without playing particularly sharp, the second unit managed to cut the deficit at the end of the first quarter to just three and put the Spurs back in control in the second period. Some inspired play by Bradley Beal, who finished with 31 points despite not having his legs under him at times, was enough to keep the Wizards in it, since the Spurs seemingly refused to take the opportunity and run away with it. Still, it become clear at the break that it was going to be hard for the depleted visitors to keep up if San Antonio actually played well enough to go on a run.

Fortunately the push came early in the third quarter, as a red-hot LaMarcus Aldridge not only prevented the starters from going into one of their usual slumps, but actually created some separation. The Wizards fought back and leveled things at the halfway mark, but the floodgates finally opened and the threes started falling at the right time for the Spurs. The second unit was once again responsible for the run that actually determined the game, as Devin Vassell started the onslaught and then an inspired Patty Mills made 11 consecutive points for San Antonio to give the Silver and Black an eight-point lead going into the final quarter.

The Wizards kept the score close for a while, but the victory never really seemed in peril. Washington simply didn’t have enough firepower to make a run without Davis Bertans, Rui Hachimura, Thomas Bryant, Deni Avdija and Mo Wagner, among others. The Spurs kept their opponent at arm’s length for a while before finally stretching the lead to double digits. It was smooth sailing from then on, to the point where there was even enough garbage time for Luka Samanic to hit a three-pointer before the night was over. Without impressing, the Spurs simply did what was asked of them in a contest that was mismatched from the start, and got a valuable home win against yet another shorthanded opponent.

Game notes

  • DeMar DeRozan had only seven field goal attempts and didn’t crack double digits in points, but he did dish out eight assists. LaMarcus Aldrdige only had two rebounds, but he did score 15 points and led the charge in the third quarter. Neither veteran star played a well-rounded game and their defense remains an issue, but they both contributed in in ways the team needed.
  • You know who played a well-rounded game? Dejounte Murray. After missing part of last game and being questionable to play on Sunday due to an ankle injury, Murray posted his second triple-double of the season. He severely outplayed an unrecognizably passive Russell Westbrook and looked solid in most aspects of the game.
  • The other two starters, Lonnie Walker IV and Keldon Johnson, both scored in double digits, but they were both also a little out of control at times. That’s fine, since they both need to be aggressive, but the team benefited from the more calm presence of rookie Devin Vassell on Sunday. Vassell was fantastic in his 24 minutes, hitting four three-pointers and wreaking havoc on defense with his long arms and great anticipation. The future is bright at the wing in San Antonio.
  • With the starting lineup struggling so much, it’s tempting to tinker with it. The problem with that is that any such move would likely break up the trio of Patty Mills, Rudy Gay and Jakob Poeltl, which could be a mistake. Mills and Gay (34 combined points against the Wizards) give the second unit a scoring punch that is hard for other benches to match while Poeltl provides a defensive presence near the rim that changes the game dramatically for the Spurs. With those three on the court together, the Spurs have outscored opponents by over 20 points per 100 possessions, an insane number. The bench carried San Antonio against the Wizards — as it has all season.
  • The game was fun for stretches, but it would have been much more exciting if the Wizards had anything close to their normal rotation available. It’s hard to assess how good any team is this season, since there have been so many absences. The Spurs have arguably benefited from facing sometimes severely shorthanded opponents, whether because of trades, the pandemic or small injuries, but it’s always better to face opponents at full strength to see how a team stacks up. Hopefully the season will become more normal as the weeks go by.

Next game: @Pelicans on Monday

The Spurs will try to avenge their early season loss in New Orleans by taking on the slumping Pelicans. The Silver and Black should be the favorite going in, but there’s a lot of talent in their opponent’s roster, so it will take a better effort than the one they showed on Sunday to win their SEGABABA.