The Washington Wizards and the San Antonio Spurs will square off Monday in the Alamo City in a battle of teams heading in opposite directions on the NBA escalator.
The Wizards head to San Antonio after a 113-103 win in New Orleans on Saturday, their fifth consecutive victory. Daniel Gafford led Washington with a season-high 21 points, with Bradley Beal adding 16 points -- nine of which came in the fourth quarter.
Beal battled his way to a three-point play and then sank a 3-pointer to garner a 103-94 lead with 2:47 left, and the Wizards held on. They outrebounded the Pelicans 53-42 and grabbed 13 offensive rebounds and converted them into 25 points.
“Obviously, our bigs stepped up and rebounded at a high rate on both sides,” Wizards head coach Wes Unseld Jr. said. “Plus-11 on the glass is big. You force some misses, you’re getting some stops. And then of course late in the game, we had some timely rebounds that helped keep them at bay.”
The Wizards played without Kristaps Porzingis, who missed his third consecutive game with a sprained left ankle.
“No matter what, I just kept playing,” Gafford said. “We’ve got KP out. So, really just stepping up was the main thing on my mind. Just locking in and being able to play physical throughout the full game.”
The Spurs hope their homecourt advantage will aid in snapping a five-game losing streak that has dropped them just two games ahead of the Houston Rockets in last place in the Western Conference.
The latest setback - that’s 10 of their past 11 - came Saturday in the form of a 128-118 overtime loss at home against the Phoenix Suns.
San Antonio trailed by 11 points entering the fourth quarter but rallied to force the extra period on Keldon Johnson’s three-point play with 47.8 seconds to left in regulation that tied the game at 110. Phoenix quickly took the lead in overtime and the Spurs ran out of gas.
“A great effort against a good basketball team,” San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said. “Physically they played hard and did everything they can do. Keldon tried to keep us in it but (the Suns) took over in the overtime. Tough way to lose, but I’m really proud of what they did.”
Johnson poured in 34 points to lead San Antonio and Jeremy Sochan scored a career-high 30, with 14 of those coming in the third quarter. Keita Bates-Diop had 14 points and Doug McDermott scored 10, while Jakob Poeltl grabbed 13 rebounds and Stanley Johnson took 12 boards for the Spurs, who were missing key reserve guards Josh Richardson and Romeo Langford because of injury.
San Antonio has won just twice in their 14 January games.
“We just don’t want to win one and lose five in a row -- we want to get a win streak going,” Johnson said. “That’s what kind of breakthrough we’re looking for. We make little mistakes and do it to ourselves.”