Wizards get another textbook lesson in ball movement from the Spurs

November 14, 2013

(Associated Press)

SAN ANTONIO — Garrett Temple came up through the San Antonio Spurs’ system and got another chance to marvel at the way the team, and its stars, continue to play for one another and have success by ignoring the box score.

At one point during the Wizards’ 92-79 loss on Wednesday at AT&T Center, Temple said he saw Tony Parker instruct Tim Duncan to get down on the side for a post-up, but Duncan refused and told Parker to call the play for Tiago Splitter instead.

“He’s supposed to be the best power forward in the league, wants to get his other big man the ball in the post, rather than himself,” Temple said. “You don’t go to that team unless you have an unselfish mentality. Being that unselfish, having guys that don’t care who score the ball, you can win games like that, and win championships like that.”

The defending Western Conference champion Spurs offered up another clinic on shot distribution and sharing while recording their eighth straight win over the Wizards. Duncan, the future Hall of Famer, had the worst offensive game of his career — he scored just two points and missed 11 of 12 shots — but his teammates played so well that no starter saw the court in the fourth quarter.

Besides Duncan, no other Spur attempted more than nine shots yet six finished in double figures. San Antonio shot 50.6 percent from the field with an offense predicated on constant player movement and ball movement until the defense ultimately surrenders.

“When you got a team like that, not just the first group, but the second group plays the exact same way and the third group plays the same way,” the Wizards’ Bradley Beal said. “So it’s really tough when you have a team like that who is capable of just moving the ball, passing the ball, cutting every second, and not getting tired on top of that. That’s a great team.”

Sporting special camouflage uniforms to honor the military, San Antonio scored the first eight points and led 16-5. Nine of the Spurs’ first 11 field goals were assisted. They led 45-26 when Marco Belinelli took a pass from Duncan and made a layup, but the Wizards outscored San Antonio 31-15 over the next 14 minutes to get back into the game. But the ball movement was replaced by excess dribbling and one-on-one play.

“To fight back to get to 60-57 after the start we had was good and we just threw it down the toilet,” Coach Randy Wittman said. “We don’t have a guy who we can say, ‘We’re going to give you the ball, let’s spread the floor, you go get us a shot and get us a basket.’ We’re not made up that way.”

The Spurs nearly doubled the Wizards in assists (28-15), and even San Antonio’s hired guns have quickly bought into Coach Gregg Popovich’s team-first system. Belinelli, who has never been shy about shooting, came off the bench and led the Spurs with eight assists in just 23 minutes. Four Spurs had at least three assists.

“The way they play is beautiful,” Nene said. “Every time we go against the Spurs, it’s like private class, the way they play. I’m going to be honest, the way their young players play, it’s beautiful, because they commit to do the right thing, they move, they cut, they help each other. It’s amazing the way they play, simple basketball. I wish our young guys who think they know a lot of things, who think they are smart and they just got in the league. What make me mad, after a game like that, they look at stats.”

Nene didn’t mention any names, but John Wall and Beal combined to take 38 of the Wizards’ 91 shots and made just 14. Four Wizards attempted double-digit field attempts, but no player had more than three assists.

Newcomer Marcin Gortat, who has faced the Spurs several times over the past few seasons in Phoenix, compared San Antonio’s flawless execution on offense to music of Mozart.

“Even though we have more talent, our guards have more talent than they have. Still, they just play together. They’re sharing the ball. They’re running the system and they are playing the way Pop tells them to play,” Gortat said. “You have veterans like Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan, you just play off these guys. If the game goes to the crunch, they take over the game. But by the time the game is on the line, the young guys are already running the team.”

Wall credited the Spurs for staying committed to their system, but he felt the Wizards assisted with another poor defensive effort.

“We know we can score the basketball. The main thing is being more consistent defensively for 48 minutes,” Wall said. “Until we do that, we will not be a good team and we will not be a playoff team. We’re like last in the league in giving up field goal percentage and three-pointers, and all different type of things. The two games we won, were the best team defensively; getting into the passing lanes and making teams turn the ball over. So until we get committed to doing like we did last year, you have no chance in this league, being last in letting other teams score against you.”

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