WASHINGTON — Accustomed by now to playing without their best player, the Washington Wizards put on another clinic of team basketball before they get five-time All-Star John Wall back.
Seven players scored in double figures as the Wizards beat the San Antonio Spurs 116-106 on Tuesday night to snap a three-game losing streak in the middle of a tight Eastern Conference playoff race. San Antonio lost for just the second time in eight games but may have been dealt a more serious blow with a left knee injury to star LaMarcus Aldridge.
“We are at a point if LaMarcus gets a cough, a cold, we are in deep trouble,” veteran guard Manu Ginobili said. “So hopefully it’s just a one half thing because if not it’s really going to get tough to score down the stretch. We’ve got tough opponents. We’re playing against teams that need wins. Hopefully it’s nothing.”
Markieff Morris led Washington with 15 points on 7-of-7 shooting in just 17 minutes, and the rest of the lineup showcased the kind of balance that helped the Wizards go 15-11 in 26 consecutive games without Wall.
“We want to welcome him back with momentum, not with losing a couple games and wanting him to come back and like save the day,” Morris said. “We want him to come back while we’re in the flow, while guys are feeling good and he just brings the presence that he always brings.”
While Wall is on the verge of returning from a two-month absence after left knee surgery, the Spurs await an MRI on Aldridge’s left knee after he limped off late in the second quarter. Aldridge was the game’s leading scorer with 13 points at the time and still finished with the most for San Antonio despite not playing the second half.
Thanks to Washington’s 38-point second quarter and Aldridge’s injury, the game was more of a blowout than the score indicated. In a nod to Kevin Durant and Wizards center Marcin Gortat, coach Scott Brooks joked, “I’m going to tweet in my burner account that it was a good team win.”
It was a necessary one after the Wizards had dropped to sixth in the East by losing five of seven. They could clinch a playoff spot as early as Thursday.
“It’s definitely a sigh of relief just because obviously we chipped away three in a row,” said Kelly Oubre Jr., who had 12 points off the bench. “Every game counts moving on, so we’ve got one more to clinch and that’s definitely in our mind.”
The Spurs can’t yet think about clinching. They’re potentially in a more precarious spot, sitting sixth in the West with Utah, Minnesota, Denver and the Los Angeles Clippers all within reach behind them.
Spurs: Only seven times this season had they given up more than 116 points. … Fell to 2-9 on the road since Feb. 1. … Shot 18 of 33 (54.5 percent) from the free throw line. Brandon Paul’s 0 for 2 in the fourth quarter earned all fans in attendance a free fast-food chicken sandwich. … Are 2-5 this season without Aldridge.
Wizards: Got 61 points from reserves. … Otto Porter Jr. scored 14 points on 6 of 7 shooting. … Made 10 of 24 3-point attempts.
WALL NEARING RETURN
While Wall insisted he’ll be himself when he gets back, Brooks is already having discussions about how to manage the 27-year-old’s seemingly imminent return because the ramping-up process is going so well.
“His knee is responding through everything that we put him through, so it’s getting close,” Brooks said. “We’re pushing him in practice, making sure he can withstand the intensity that it’s going to be in a game as much as we can simulate it.”
SPURS TO SUPREME COURT
San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich took his team to the Supreme Court on Tuesday, where they met Chief Justice John Roberts and heard from Justice Sonia Sotomayor about her life and experiences. Popovich wanted players to continue learning about things outside basketball, which seemed to work.
“I thought it was dope,” Paul said. “I took a business law class in high school. … I’m a big fan of the law. My mom jokes with me and says that I should try and go to law school and stuff like that. I thought it was cool to meet the different people that came to talk to us.”
Spurs: Return home to face the Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday.
Wizards: Visit the Detroit Pistons on Thursday.
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