Editor's Note: Please welcome Albert Lee, aka thewiz06, to the BF team! Albert's a longtime community member that also contributes to SB Nation's WNBA site, Swish Appeal, so we're thrilled to have him aboard.
Last Tuesday, Satchel Price wrote that there was a critical stretch of five games in nine days, all against teams that are title contenders. If the Wizards were to lose all five of those games, it would only raise more questions on the team's direction and whether the front office staff, namely Ernie Grunfeld and Randy Wittman, should still have a job this fall.
Fortunately, the Wizards didn't have four straight blowout losses since last Tuesday. In fact, I think we're feeling pretty good now that this season-defining stretch is almost over. First, the Wizards beat the Warriors on the road at ROARACLE. Then, they made a good late comeback despite a loss to the Clippers at Staples Center. Then, they kicked off their current five game home stand last Saturday with a big win over the Thunder. With last Monday's win over the Trail Blazers, the Wizards got above .500 for the first time this season and in John Wall's entire career. But they also clinched a winning record in the season defining stretch against many of the toughest opponents in the NBA.
Even then, we're not satisfied just yet. Now that the Wizards are FINALLY above .500, we want to see the positive momentum continue as we head towards All Star Break next week. We still have one more major team in this important stretch, as the 35-13 San Antonio Spurs come to Verizon Center on the second game of their nine game road trip while the San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo goes on at the AT&T Center. Tony Parker will provide another major test for Wall, who continues to show on a consistent basis that he is one of the best point guards in the NBA.
Where and when? Tip off is at 7 p.m. at the Verizon Center. You can watch the game on Comcast SportsNet.
Are they good? At 35-13, the Spurs are damn good by virtue of their record alone. However, they've been hit with injuries as of late. Still, they just happen to have the Wizards' number, as the Wizards haven't beaten the Spurs since November 12, 2005.
Who's out? For the Wizards, Al Harrington. For the Spurs, multiple players will be out. One of their Big Three, Manu Ginobili has a hamstring injury and will be out for a few weeks. Kawhi Leonard is also out due to a broken hand. Tiago Splitter and Danny Green have just recently come back from injuries, with Splitter returning last Saturday in a win vs. the Kings and Green getting back on the court Monday in their road win against the Pelicans.
What are they good at? The Spurs rank near the top in most team offensive and defensive categories, especially when their Big Three of Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, and Manu Ginobili is healthy. With Green and Splitter back, they should improve and hold their own on their annual long road trip while the Rodeo's going on back in San Antonio.
What are they bad at? If anything, it's keeping their team healthy. In their last five games, which included a three game losing streak, the Spurs made 46.8 percent of their shots, and grabbed 34.8 rebounds a game, while their defense allowed opponents to make 46.4 percent of their shots and grab 43.6 rebounds a game, all numbers that are considerably worse than their season averages in those categories and aren't trends that we see in a team like the Spurs. For more reading, here's a piece from SB Nation Spurs site Pounding the Rock that focused on their recent struggles. But with the returns of Splitter and Green, those struggles should probably be behind them going forward.
Who's going to win? I'm going to be a homer and say that the Wizards will pull the win off in a close game, with a tight eight man rotation, even though the Spurs have the best road record in the NBA at 17-5. If the Wizards can beat the Heat, Thunder, and Blazers all by double digits at home, they should have the ability to find a way to win against a Spurs team that is still getting its groove back from a rough January.
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