San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich lived up to his cantankerous reputation during a pregame media session Wednesday night before facing the Wizards. One of his gems came following a question about whether he noticed a change in Washington guards John Wall and Bradley Beal this season.
"I haven't watched them," he dryly replied.
Popovich received an up close up look at Washington's dynamic backcourt Wednesday night. Praise from the five-time NBA champion coach followed.
Beal scored 25 points including the game-winning 3-pointer with 0.3 seconds left in the Wizards' 102-99 win. Wall finished with 17 points. He fed Beal on Washington's final play for one of his 13 assists.
“I thought he was brilliant," Popovich said of Wall.
That's also an apt description Beal's start this season. The fourth-year guard is the third player in Wizards/Bullets history and first since 1968 with at least 24 points in each of the team's first four games of the season.
The game's last shot occurred after Washington's play design set up the wing guard on the perimeter against 6-foot-11 forward LaMarcus Aldridge. After faking a screen, Beal floated to the right wing, received the pass from Wall, took a one hop dribble left and released another textbook jumper. Splash.
"John told me even before we ran the play be ready because you may be open," Beal said. "[Aldridge] thought I was going to drive it ...I just knocked down the shot."
Popovich offered a similar take from his vantage point by the Spurs bench.
“[LaMarcus] had him. Bradley made a great move," Popovich noted. "He stutter-stepped, he dribbled back, he made a shot. It happens all the time.”
Washington beating San Antonio doesn't happen all the time, though the Wizards have won two straight in the series after losing 17 in a row.
Beal and Wall combined for 17 of Washington's final 19 points as the Wizards fought back to down the Western Conference power.
Reminded about his earlier "I haven't watched them" comment, Popovich said of Beal, "He’s a hell of a player. I don’t need to see film to know that.”
Wall scored 13 points in the fourth quarter. The point guard's floor game stood out to Popovich. The two-time All-Star had assists on each of Washington's first three possessions along with one on the final play.
"He got the ball to the right people at appropriate times, often," Popovich said of Washington's leading man. "He was very consistent, he made big shots when he needed to, but the floor game was really excellent."
Wall appreciated Popovich's postgame praise.
"It's a guy I finally beat for the first time last year. He's one of the greatest coaches of all-time. Every time I have the opportunity to meet him, whether we win or lose, I want to shake his hand. It's a respect factor -- and a humbling experience to say I played against a hell of a coach like that," Wall said.
"To hear that from, it's great. When I first came [into the league], they forced me to play one-on-one. That's what I did I kind of figured out how to beat teams. To hear that from a guy like that is great. It's an honor and something I will always remember in my career."