The Spurs snapped the Wizards’ eight-game winning streak with a 146-143 victory in Washington. It was an absolute barn burner that featured Bradley Beal scoring 45 points that ultimately weren’t enough to prevail in overtime against DeMar DeRozan’s 37.
It would be impossible to tell looking at the final score, but the story coming into the game was which of the two defenses, which had ranked in the top five in the league in the prior 10 games, was going to be the most effective. The answer proved to be “neither” early on. San Antonio had no way of stopping Bradley Beal and couldn’t keep Washington out of the paint, in no small part because Jakob Poeltl got into foul trouble early. Meanwhile, there simply was no one in the perimeter for the Wizards with the size to guard DeMar DeRozan and Alex Len experienced some foul trouble of his own. When the second units checked in the focus of the offenses went away from the paint and to the three-point line, but both teams kept getting open looks and trading buckets.
The Wizards embraced the shootout in the second quarter by going small with no natural center on the court, which worked for them. The Spurs remained more traditional, with Drew Eubanks getting minutes early after Poeltl got called for his third foul, and then Gorgui Dieng getting some burn when Eubanks was too worried about whistles to protect the paint. Despite playing poor defense at all levels, San Antonio still managed to have a small lead for most of the first half, mostly because both Dejounte Murray and DeRozan were productive, while only Beal was consistent for Washington, as Russell Westbrook struggled at times to score.
Not much changed in the second half, as DeRozan and Beal paced scorching hot offenses while the paint remained open for the Wizards with Poeltl unable to escape foul trouble. The moment that threatened to finally break the parity and change the course of the game came in the most unfortunate of way, as Derrick White landed on his right ankle and had to be helped off the floor. That event, combined with some questionable calls going the Wizards’ way, zapped the Spurs’ focus. Washington took advantage and got a seven-point lead but San Antonio’s bench did a good job of bringing enough energy to prevent the Wizards from running away with it. Going into the final period of regulation, the game was tied.
A good start by the Wizards once again put them in a position to take control, but it had become Washington’s turn to lose focus, as a Westbrook technical and some shaky play that followed allowed the Spurs to make it once again a very close game. Since around the halfway mark of the quarter, neither team could create a lead of more than three points. Beal and Westbrook were huge for the home team down the stretch while several Spurs made big buckets. In the final minute DeRozan hit two mid-range shots to first tie and then give San Antonio the lead, but with 15.8 seconds left, Beal tied things up. DeRozan almost won it in the last play of regulation, but his would-be buzzer beater rimmed out. To overtime we went.
The Spurs got the win in extra time mainly because they had more weapons. Beal was brilliant for the Wizards, but he was asked to do too much, while several players showed up for the Silver and Black. In fact DeRozan only scored from the line after a technical called on Beal while Dejounte Murray, with two buckets and crucial steal, and Keldon Johnson Johnson carried the offensive load. Some Patty Mills clutch free throws and a Beal desperation three later, the Wizards’ streak was over while the Spurs had secured yet another road win.
- The basketball gods hate Derrick White, apparently. After all he went through this year, he got a right ankle sprain that “didn’t look good,” according to Gregg Popovich himself. Let’s hope the injury isn’t so bad as to keep him out for the rest of the season.
- The DeRozan-Beal duel was insanely fun to watch. Beal had the better scoring game, not only statistically but also accounting for the defense he faced, but DeRozan’s 10 assists to the Wizards’ star’s one probably gives the overall edge to DeMar.
- There were 45 personal fouls called in the game and three technicals. The officiating was strange throughout and the players weren’t happy.
- DeRozan was the star, but Dejounte Murray and Keldon Johnson were fantastic supporting players. Johnson had 21 points in 14 shots while Murray pulled down 17 boards to go with his 25 points. They both made timely plays and Kedon had another highlight dunk.
- The Spurs had to use their three centers on Monday because of foul trouble and all three did their job. They were fortunate to have a big depth advantage at the big men spots, since the Wizards were missing Robin Lopez and Thomas Bryant and had some foul trouble of their own. Dieng has not been the big addition some thought he’d be, but having him ready in case of emergency is huge.
- Is Lonnie Walker IV sick? He only played 19 minutes after being questionable with a non-COVID related headache, and was not good in his time on the court. Losing him at the same time as White, even if it is for a game or two, would leave the Spurs thin at the wing, but if he’s not fully healthy he should probably sit. Devin Vassell could use some minutes, anyway.
- The bench vets were good on this one. Rudy Gay took care of the offense at one point when DeRozan was resting by attacking Davis Bertans to good results and Mills hit two big threes late and then made both clutch free throws. Those two served as a stabilizing presence in key moments, which is exactly what the Spurs need from them.
Next Game: @Heat on Wednesday
The Spurs will have the opportunity to avenge their recent loss to the Heat when they visit Miami on Wednesday. The schedule will continue to be grueling until the end of the season, unfortunately.