Wed, Feb 5 Spurs-Wizards Preview
Verizon Center - Washington, District of Columbia
By NOEY KUPCHAN, Associated Press
The Washington Wizards finally moved above .500 after beating another Western Conference powerhouse their last time out.
Now, they'll try to get over the hump against the San Antonio Spurs.
Washington tries to avoid a 16th consecutive loss to San Antonio as these teams conclude their season series in the nation's capital Wednesday night.
The Wizards (24-23) blew their first seven chances to get over the break-even mark before breaking through with a 100-90 win over Portland on Monday. Washington, which easily got by West-leading Oklahoma City 96-81 two nights earlier, hadn't been above .500 since opening 2-1 in 2009-10.
"It's only one game over, but, yeah, it's a big relief," All-Star guard John Wall said. "But the main thing is we've got bigger goals to try to keep winning games and try to keep getting better and try not to go back down - so we won't have to have this talk again."
Wall led the way with 22 points and Trevor Ariza added 20 for Washington, which held an 18-6 edge in transition. The Wizards limited the Trail Blazers to 38.5 percent shooting and 35 points over the final two quarters, tied for their lowest total allowed in a half this season.
Washington, in fifth place in the East, is hoping to make its first postseason appearance since 2007-08. The Wizards last won three in a row Jan. 13-17, tied for their longest winning streak of the season.
"How many more games have we got to play?" coach Randy Wittman said. "You act like that was the last daggum game. ... If we're going to learn to be a good basketball team, we have to do this every night, no matter who you're playing.
"It's great that we're 24-23 now, but I don't want them to focus on a number. I want them to focus on the act of why you're 24-23. That's where you keep it going. I want this team to get on a run. They haven't ever been on a run."
Pulling out another victory could prove difficult against the Spurs (35-13), who have dominated this series over the years. San Antonio has won 15 consecutive matchups, including six straight in Washington by an average of 21.1 points.
Wall had a quiet night as Washington fell 92-79 at San Antonio on Nov. 13, scoring 14 points and shooting 5 of 19. His average of 11.8 points in five career meetings with the Spurs is his lowest against any team.
San Antonio has followed a season-worst three-game losing streak with back-to-back wins, 95-93 over Sacramento on Saturday and 102-95 at New Orleans on Monday. Tony Parker had 32 points and nine assists while Tim Duncan scored 21 to go along with a season high-tying six blocks.
The Spurs trailed by 14 with 11:15 left in the fourth quarter before outscoring the Pelicans 36-15 the rest of the way.
"Finally, in the fourth quarter, we were more physical and played better defense," said Parker, whose team is shooting an NBA-best 50.4 percent in the fourth. "We just know how to win. ... In the fourth quarter, when it's tight, we know how to execute and we know what we want to do on offense."
Danny Green shot 1 of 7 and finished with seven points in his first game back after missing 10 due to a broken left hand. The Spurs, who went 5-5 during his absence, are 17-3 when he scores at least seven.
San Antonio is still dealing with injuries to Kawhi Leonard (broken hand) and Manu Ginobili (strained hamstring).