Spurs seek to fix home problems against Washington
When people talk about the San Antonio Spurs' first quarter of the 2016-17 season, they don't mention the way the Spurs won every game they played on the road, or about the upcoming celebration for the retired Tim Duncan or that they have one of the best basketball players on the planet -- do-everything-and-do-it-well forward Kawhi Leonard -- leading them night in and night out.
Instead the talk is about the Spurs' middling play at home, where they've dropped four of their eight contests to the likes of the Clippers, Houston, Utah and, most recently, Orlando.
San Antonio has another chance to get rolling at home on Friday when it hosts the Washington at AT&T Center, squaring off with the Wizards for the second time in a week and for the final time this season.
Just about everyone associated with the Spurs (15-4) is at a loss to explain why they've struggled at home. Is it defensive breakdowns, an early lack of intensity or a general malaise built on years of continued success?
"We've been ready to play on the road," Spurs forward Pau Gasol said. "At home we sometimes come out a little flat. Those slow starts really cost us the ballgames. We put ourselves into too big of a hole to get out of. When most opposing teams come here, they don't expect to win, but once they get an opportunity, they see a window, they jump right through it.
"On the road we've been ready, understanding that it's usually a more challenging situation. We come out ready to play and we usually deliver the first blow and that usually puts us in an advantageous position."
After losing to Orlando on Tuesday, San Antonio went back on the road and waylaid Dallas, coming back from 13 points down in the third quarter to post a 94-87 win on Wednesday.
The Spurs, with Gasol, guard Manu Ginobili and point guard Tony Parker held out to rest on the second night of back-to-back games, were led by guards Patty Mills' 23 points, 15 of which came in the fourth quarter.
"Coming home, trying to defend home court," Mills said, "is the priority for (Friday's) game."
Washington (6-11) heads to the Alamo City off a 126-115 overtime road loss Wednesday to Oklahoma City. Guard Bradley Beal scored 31 points in the loss, point guard John Wall had 15 assists and seven Washington players tallied in double figures but the Wizards relented after holding a seven-point lead with four minutes to play.
"It was a heck of a basketball game against a very good team," Wizards coach Scott Brooks said. "I like the way our guys compete -- our guys fought back twice in a very difficult arena. We didn't give up or give in. It was a great sign of where this team is going as we continue on this season."
Washington is 6-7 this season when Beal and Wall are both in the starting lineup. In those games, the Wizards average 105.4 points on 45.8 percent shooting. Beal averages 22.2 points, 3.2 rebounds and 3.1 assists while Wall averages 21.8 points, 10.0 assists, 4.8 rebounds and 2.0 steals.
"This was probably our most difficult loss of the season," Wall said. "We had a chance to win the game at the end and when we didn't the momentum changed in overtime. We have to refocus and be ready to play San Antonio."
San Antonio beat Washington last Saturday 112-100 at Verizon Center in the nation's capital. The Spurs haven't lost to the Wizards at home since Dec. 11, 1999, a streak of 16 games.