San Antonio Spurs guard Manu Ginobili went on another one of his whirling drives to the basket in the first quarter of the Wizards’ 112-97 loss at AT&T Center, but Chris Singleton greeted him at the rim, spiking Ginobili and the ball back to the ground. Singleton had two blocks in the first seven minutes, including a rejection of a Tim Duncan layup.
But the main reason why the Wizards lost their fifth consecutive road game and got ran off the court was because those type of stops were non-existent for most of the game. The Wizards didn’t play much defense, as Tony Parker used Tim Duncan screens to get to the rim at will and the Spurs’ perimeter shooters camped out for several open looks from three-point range.
“We took advantage of their defense and we had wide open shots everywhere,” Parker said after returning from a quadriceps injury to score a game-high 31 points on 13 of 18 shooting.
The Wizards are playing a more uptempo pace, but that means that their opponents are scoring more, too. They have given up at least 110 points in six of their past 10 games – including three of their past five road games – and have lost all six games. They are 0-8 this season when they allow 110 or more points.
“Until we get committed defensively, for 48 [minutes], that’s what it boils down to,” Coach Randy Wittman said.
It may not have seemed like it, but the Wizards have seen pick-and-rolls before, but their defense against the Spurs on that offensive staple was beyond abysmal. The Wizards were a half step late closing out, and their rotations were bad, leaving too many layup opportunities.
The Spurs had a season-high 30 assists, with 23 coming in the first half when the team had 28 field goals and shot 62.2 percent from the field. Their first 51 points came as the result of five three-pointers and 18 layups or dunks. They hadn’t attempted any free throws while building an early 18-point lead.
“It’s not just the guards, it’s not just the big guys, it’s everyone,” John Wall said after the game. “We have no help on the weak side, not closing out on the shooters. They basically scored anytime they wanted to until we started playing defense in the second half. But we can’t wait until the second half to start playing defense against a team like the Spurs.”
JaVale McGee scored a team-high 21 points and grabbed 15 rebounds, but Wittman didn’t want to acknowledge his scoring output. “Again, that’s what we’re all worried about – ‘I got my 21,’ ” Wittman said, pausing to explain that he wasn’t criticizing McGee, but a mentality among some players that they had a good game if they scored a lot of points. “I don’t care about the 21, 15 I like. But what’s he doing in the pick and roll? What are we doing defensively. That’s what we’ve got to get our focus to. We’ve got to get away from that. I’m not worried about that part of it.”
Wittman would rather discuss the number of contested shots, the defensive stops, and the incredible blocks. The Wizards are at their best when they score 100 or more, going 6-7 this season. But they have surrendered triple digits 26 times and are just 4-22. With this new high scoring offense, the Wizards have to find a way to make sure their opponents have fewer points.
“We just have to get better on defense individually and as a team,” McGee said. “We just need to help each other out on defense and when we get that down, we’ll be fine.”