SAN ANTONIO — The Washington Wizards haven’t won in San Antonio since the Clinton administration and several stars — from Richard Hamilton to Michael Jordan to Gilbert Arenas — came to town wearing uniforms of different colors, representing teams of different quality, all left with the same result.
Yet when Martell Webster made a turnaround jumper to bring the Wizards within three points in the third quarter, pulling his team nearly all the way back up from a 19-point deficit, hope glimmered. And then, with an incredible flurry, the Spurs scored 16 straight points and sent the Wizards back to Washington with a 92-79 defeat at AT&T Center.
“They kicked our butts in the most classy way — playing the right way,” Nene said, fuming following the clinical destruction of the Wizards by the selfless Spurs. “It’s crazy, that’s what makes me mad. Our young guys think they’re so smart. But if I was young, I would watch video of that game for one week to see if I could learn something, because the way they play is how you’re supposed to play.
“They not talented as us,” Nene continued. “They have great players, a great team, but the way they execute things, the way they cut, the way they exploit weaknesses, swing the ball. They don’t think about stats. We still think about stats. Our young guys must take their heads out their butts and play the right way, because I’m getting tired of this.”
The Wizards (2-6) saw their losing streak here extended to 15 games, dating back to Dec. 11, 1999, and left more beat up than when they arrived. In the locker room afterward, Trevor Ariza was hobbled after straining his right calf in the second quarter and Bradley Beal joked that John Wall looked as if he had just been boxing Floyd Mayweather after Wall got raked across in right eye late in the third quarter.
Washington left for a three-game road trip through Oklahoma City, Dallas and San Antonio encouraged and confident after winning two in a row. They come home with their second three-game losing streak.
Ariza will have an MRI exam on his right leg Thursday but didn’t sound optimistic about his chances of returning when the team returns to play Cleveland on Saturday at Verizon Center. He was injured while intercepting a pass from Tim Duncan, but left a few plays later when he fouled Kawhi Leonard, grabbed the back of his leg and came up limping.
“I felt a little pop,” Ariza said. “With this team, it feels like if it’s not one thing, it’s always another.”
Wall scored 14 points and had eight assists, but he spent most of the final period with an ice pack over his right eye after Spurs backup Jeff Ayres came down hard on him as he attempted to get an offensive rebound. No foul was called on the play and Wall was on the court writhing in pain for a few minutes before Al Harrington helped him up. As he walked toward the bench rubbing his eye, Wall screamed to an official, “How is that not a foul?"
With Ariza out, Webster was given the starting nod in the second half and finished with a season-high 21 points. He brought his team within 60-57 with 3 minutes 9 seconds left in the third period, but the Wizards lost track of what got them into the game.
“We came down and took six of the worst shots you could possibly take,” Coach Randy Wittman said. “Zero or one pass. All of a sudden, we’re going to be play hero. We can’t do that. We don’t have a hero here. We have to play five guys.”
Beal bounced back from scoring a season-low nine points in Dallas to score 19 points. But the Wizards got little offensively from Marcin Gortat and Nene, who combined for just 13 points and nine rebounds. Gortat, however, was effective defensively, as he held Duncan to just two points on 1-for-12 shooting – the worst offensive night of his career.
But the defending Western Conference champion Spurs didn’t need Duncan on a night when they had six players in double figures. Tony Parker led the Spurs with 16 points, but the bench was responsible for extending the lead to 25 points. The Wizards had 15 assists. The Spurs’ had 28 assists, with 17 coming from second unit.
“I don’t think he was really intimidated by my defense. Some possessions, he just missed easy shots,” Gortat said of Duncan. “To win against San Antonio, you’ve got to be able to stop their whole team. San Antonio runs defense perfectly. It was like listening to Mozart. It’s just ridiculous how they play. If we’re not going to learn how to play like these guys play today, we’re going to have a tough season.”
Upset by a poor performance by his backups on Tuesday in Dallas, Wittman pledged to make some adjustments to his rotation, giving Jan Vesely and Glen Rice Jr. their first extended playing time. The moves didn’t necessarily provide much on the scoreboard, but they at least sent the message that Wittman was willing to change the formula in search of results.
Harrington, a 16-year veteran who missed all but 10 games last season while recovering from a right knee injury, was given the night off to rest on the second of back-to-back games. With Ariza and Wall going down, Wittman wound up using all 12 available players.
“We know how we’re supposed to play, plain and simple,” Webster said. “You wouldn’t even know that Tim Duncan was 1 for 12 tonight, because nobody cares over there who scores. And it’s a beautiful thing to watch because that ball gets whipped around and being a defender, it completely [stinks] because . . . we’re continually running around like a chicken with our heads cut off. There is a reason they went to the Finals last year.”