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Spurs stand as Wizards fall


Spurs stand as Wizards fall

The Spurs are an experienced and confident crew. They've grown accustomed to winning over the years without taking any game for granted. Offensively, San Antonio's sharing is caring style leads to exquisite basketball. At the center of it all, a fundamentally stable core group and desirable continuity.

In other words, everything the Wizards are not, not now anyway. San Antonio's 118-92 win in Washington, the Spurs 13th straight over the Wizards and sixth consecutive in the Verizon Center, illuminated the differences. The 12-3 versus 0-12 records do as well.

Tim Duncan's future Hall of Fame resume, one constantly updated with All-Star chapters, started 15 seasons ago. The last 10 included Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili in the mix.

John Wall is the longest tenured Wizard and the injured point guard hasn't played a second in this his third season.

The Spurs returned their entire core from last season's Western Conference regular season championship team. Not just the big three, but their top 10 players. Everyone on the roster except newbie Nando De Colo played for San Antonio last season. Against Washington, key contributors Stephen Jackson and Kawhi Leonard were inactive.

The Wizards have seven new players this season alone and since the start of last season, nine. Only John Wall, Jordan Crawford, Trevor Booker, Kevin Seraphin, Jan Vesely and Chris Singleton opened with Washington in 2011-12. Nobody from that half-dozen has played more than two full seasons.

San Antonio's four-time championship winning coach Gregg Popovich has been pulling the strings on the Spurs bench since 1996. Wizards coach Randy Wittman has been at his current job for 61 games.

"We've been together for so many years and they're so new, trying to figure it out," Ginobili said after the Spurs eighth road win in nine games this season. "The core knowledge is completely different to theirs. They have a lot of rookies and new guys. We are opposites in that regard. That doesn't mean on any given they can't surprise and beat you. I'm glad we played the game we did."

After his team's most lopsided defeat of the season, Wizards' coach Randy Wittman said, “I would like for us to be able to play like that one day. Obviously Popovich and that team have been together for a long time and they know each other very well."

The Spurs drained 13 of 23 three-pointers, shot well over 50 percent from the field in both halves and netted 32 assists, all leading to its season-high point total.

"Credit to them. They carved us up pretty good tonight and we kind of succumbed to it," Wittman said. "Thirty-two assists on 45 baskets, that's the way the game should be played. Hopefully we can take a page out of that for the future.”

The Spurs won with seven players scoring in double figures and the bench outpointing the starters. They won coming off a double-overtime game Sunday in Toronto. Monday night in Washington, game four of a six-game road swing. So far, all W's.

"Overall a great job," said Ginobili, who contributed 12 points, five rebounds and five assists in 20 minutes. "Everybody contributed, we were responsible, we worked hard. We really moved the ball."

On the court, the Spurs move the ball with care and purpose, preferably by the pass rather than the dribble.

"That's always the game plan, to share the ball, get the best shot you possibly can," said Spurs forward Matt Bonner. "We did that tonight, going from a good shot to a great shot, lots of hockey assists. It was a lot of fun.

Especially playing without their top two playmakers in Wall and Nene, the Wizards tend to pound the rock and in turn slow the flow. Against San Antonio, Washington had 14 assists, one off its season low.

“It’s a learning process," said Wittman. "We are trying to get them to play with movement and passing rather than dribbling. Its habits that we are continuously trying to break.”

Bonner's effectiveness epitomizes the differences between the rosters. Unlike his counterparts in Washington, Bonner joined San Antonio as a plug-and-play guy and given time to adapt. The system existed, his role evident.

"I had Robert Horry who was kind of the guy who played my position with to the Spurs," Bonner said. "Had a year or two to kind of transition, kind of learn under him. He was always giving me tips and coaching me on and off the court."

On the other side, Wittman is in constant tinker mode, looking five, any five players to use.

With its fourth different starting lineup of the season, Washington went toe to toe with San Antonio early, trailing 50-48 with three minutes remaining in the first half. The Spurs closed the second quarter with 10 straight points, extended the run to 20-4 after halftime. The surge "kind of took our will away," Wittman said.

Webster said of the Spurs, "They’re constantly in a rhythm. A veteran team like that they understand. They have guys on that team who have been around this league and have tons of experience who can flip that switch because they know."

"That’s what we want to get to. That starts with work and trust and buying into the system. I think once we do that we’ll be a fun team to watch.”

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Scott Brooks preparing Wizards for much tougher road ahead

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Scott Brooks preparing Wizards for much tougher road ahead

The Wizards entered the All-Star break having won seven of their previous nine games since John Wall went down with an injury, so a natural question to head coach Scott Brooks looking ahead to their first game back on Thursday was how he and his team can keep that momentum going in the second half.

Brooks immediately pointed to the Wizards' schedule, which gets notably more difficult in the coming weeks. They have a stretch of games over the next month-plus that features the best teams in basketball and Brooks knows that will be a big factor in whether they can sustain what they have going.

"Definitely the schedule gets tougher," Brooks said. "We've got a lot of good teams coming up starting with the first one in Cleveland. It's five games in seven nights against really good teams."


In the next five weeks, the Wizards will play 15 of 17 games against teams currently holding playoff spots. That includes the Cavaliers, Warriors, Celtics, Spurs (twice), Raptors and Timberwolves. 

That will represent a marked shift for the Wizards, who to this point have the weakest strength of schedule. Though they boast impressive wins over the Celtics, Rockets, Raptors and Timberwolves, they are about to play teams of that caliber more frequently with few nights off to rest. They have four back-to-back sets all in the next three weeks.

The upcoming stretch has been on the Wizards' minds for a while. Several players referenced their tough schedule before the All-Star break, knowing those wins leading up to the time off could prove extra important in hindsight.

The Wizards return to action on Thursday night against the Cavaliers, a team that has already beaten them twice. Both of those games were against the old version of the Cavs before they traded much of their roster at the deadline.


Gone are Dwyane Wade, Derrick Rose, Isaiah Thomas, Iman Shumpert, Jae Crowder and Channing Frye. But they still have that guy LeBron James.

"Shoot, they looked good the other time, right? They beat us twice with the other group," Brooks noted. "LeBron is going to go down as one of the best ever. They are younger and more athletic. They're a good team and they still have an All-Star in [Kevin] Love who hasn't played because he's hurt."

The Cavs haven't lost in three games since the All-Star break and that includes road wins over the Celtics and Thunder. They look rejuvenated and, at least so far, improved from the aging, incongruent roster they had just weeks ago.

The Wizards have also been playing better lately, of course, and this upcoming stretch will be a major test for them. Wall has been out three weeks since he had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee. He is likely to miss another three-to-five weeks. The Wizards will have to get through this without him.

If they can remain competitive and even beat some of these elite teams, they will only gain more confidence in their potential. That's the way Brooks plans to approach the schedule.

"We still want to be a better team when John comes back," Brooks said. "But the schedule definitely gets a lot tougher."


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Wizards set to have Tim Frazier back against Cavs after nasal fracture surgery

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Wizards set to have Tim Frazier back against Cavs after nasal fracture surgery

The All-Star break came at a good time for Wizards point guard Tim Frazier, who missed their last game before the week off due to nasal fracture surgery.

Frazier was back at the Wizards' practice on Tuesday night at Capital One Arena and expects to play on Thursday when the team returns to action on the road at the Cleveland Cavaliers.

"I feel good. I feel like I can go out there and help them compete," he said.


Frazier, 27, had surgery to repair his broken nose on Feb. 11 after he was knocked out of the previous night's game between the Wizards and Bulls. Frazier collided face-first with the knee of Bobby Portis and was immediately ushered to the locker room with blood streaming from his nose.

Following the procedure, Frazier had to battle through pain and breathing issues. He feels much better now and had no complications after participating in a full practice.

The challenge now is adjusting to a fitted mask he will have to wear to return to the court. Frazier has never had to wear a mask before in his basketball career.

"[Sweat] was one of the issues today, trying to keep it dry when I'm sweating underneath," he said.

"He looked good," head coach Scott Brooks said. "I thought he would be a little uncomfortable with it, but he seemed fine."


Frazier has been given advice from the Wizards' training staff, as well as teammate Bradley Beal who has had to wear a mask twice before in his career.

"Brad said that after a while you get used to it. Nobody wants to wear it for the rest of their careers besides Rip Hamilton," Frazier said.

Getting Frazier back is significant for the Wizards, who are already down a point guard with John Wall rehabbing from left knee surgery. Without Frazier against the Knicks on Wednesday, the Wizards had to use Beal and Otto Porter to bring the ball up at times. Now, with Tomas Satoransky and Frazier, they have a starting point guard and a backup who is used to playing the position.

They could have three point guards, as the Wizards continue to weigh their options in free agency. They have to add a player within the next two days to meet the league's minimum roster requirement. Most of the free agents they have evaluated have been point guards as they aim to compensate for Wall's absence, which could last well into the month of March.