Washington forward Tracy Murray, who, out of frustration Thursday, said he would welcome the opportunity to play for another team, scored 13 fourth-quarter points to propel the Wizards to a stunning 99-89 victory over the defending champion San Antonio Spurs tonight before 17,187 at the Alamodome.
Murray's dazzling shooting performance--he scored Washington's first 11 points of the fourth period--allowed the Wizards to snap a six-game losing streak and end their four-game western trip on a high note. It clearly was the Wizards' biggest win this season.
"I've got to give credit to my teammates," Murray said. "We all came out there and we laid it on the line tonight, and we played together. We looked good. This is definitely the way we're supposed to play."
Murray scored all but two of his points in the fourth quarter in a game that Washington controlled nearly all the way. The Wizards led after each quarter and never trailed in the second half. The Spurs got within six points in the fourth quarter, but two late baskets by forward Aaron Williams and a short jump shot by guard Rod Strickland gave Washington enough cushion to improve to 6-16.
It was the Wizards' fourth consecutive victory over the Spurs in San Antonio. The Spurs (15-7) have lost four of their last five games overall and tonight lost at home in the regular season for the first time in 23 games.
"They deserved to win but we had a lackluster effort tonight," Spurs guard Avery Johnson said. "Mentally and physically, we didn't have it."
Wizards guard Mitch Richmond scored a game-high 31 points and power forward Michael Smith grabbed a game-high 15 rebounds to complement Murray's late-game heroics. Forward Juwan Howard had 11 points and Strickland added seven assists.
San Antonio's David Robinson and Tim Duncan combined for 39 points but made just 13 of 33 shots; Robinson (14 points) was 5 of 16. Washington outrebounded the Spurs 47-37.
Wizards Coach Gar Heard said his plan was to let Duncan and Robinson get as many shots as they wanted and Washington would lock up the remaining players. Mario Elie was the only Spurs back-court player to score in double figures (11 points). The Wizards rarely double-teamed San Antonio's big men, who grabbed a total of four offensive rebounds.
"We felt if those guys shot the ball, their perimeter guys wouldn't be able shoot late in the game," Heard said. "When they had to take the shots they wouldn't be able to knock them down."
The strategy actually worked the other way around as Duncan and Robinson made just one of their final six shots.
"We're just not playing well right now," said Duncan, who scored a team-high 23 points and had a team-best 13 rebounds.
Washington played its best all-around game of the season. It outscored San Antonio 40-30 in the lane, limited the Spurs to just eight second-chance points and held San Antonio to 41 percent shooting.
Smith was the inspiration, players said. At 6 feet 8, he had the task of handling Robinson, whom he thoroughly outplayed. Smith had 10 points and five offensive rebounds, including a high-flying third-quarter tip-in that stopped a 6-2 Spurs run and put Washington up 56-52.
"Michael was that leader on the floor tonight," Heard said. "He knew he was going to come out and have a good game."
While Smith was doing the dirty work, his teammates were busy moving the ball around better than they have all season. Players moved without the ball and teammates found them in good position. Though Strickland had just seven assists, his penetration often drew the Spurs' big men to points where he could deliver passes, which his teammates often passed onto an even more open teammate.
Richmond was usually the recipient, particularly in the first half, when he scored 20 points on 9-of-20 shooting. With the Spurs focusing on Richmond in the second half, Murray, Strickland (11 points) and Smith were able to get going offensively.
San Antonio trimmed Washington's 10-point lead with a third quarter-closing 8-1 run to go into the fourth down 71-68. Two late Wizards turnovers and three fouls allowed the Spurs to pull close after Washington led by at least four points for most of the period.
The Spurs had opened the third by cutting Washington's four-point halftime lead to 54-53 on a tip-in by Duncan. But Smith kicked off an 8-2 run with his tip-in. Washington built its lead to 66-57 on a driving jump shot by Howard, whose score came after a breakaway layup by Strickland.
"This was about who wanted it the most," Smith said, "and we wanted it the most."
Wizards Notes: Robinson scored his 17,000th career point. . . .
Washington forward Gerard King, who played on San Antonio's NBA championship team last season, was awarded his championship ring in a pregame ceremony. Spurs captains Robinson and Johnson, along with Coach Gregg Popovich, presented the ring to King at half court. King received a warm ovation.
"It means a lot," King said. "First of all, I'm real close with a lot of guys on the team. I established some real good friendships. To get that ring and know I shared that championship experience, I'm going to enjoy it."