Spurs, Wizards meet with eyes set on play-in spots

The San Antonio Spurs look to pick up where they left off before the NBA All-Star break and continue a final push for the postseason when they travel to play the new-look Washington Wizards on Friday in the nation’s capital.

The Spurs restart play after the All-Star break on one of their best runs of the season. San Antonio has won three of its past four games, including a 114-106 win at Oklahoma City on Feb. 16 in its most recent contest.

Keldon Johnson led the Spurs with 22 points in the victory, which came after San Antonio was forced to hold off the Thunder in the final seconds. The Spurs were ahead by 16 points with just under five minutes to play but needed a free throw by Doug McDermott with 14 seconds left to cement the win.

Jakob Poeltl added a 20-point,17-rebound double-double for the San Antonio, and four others — including first-time All-Star Dejounte Murray (18) — had with 15 or more points. The win in Oklahoma City was the final of a five-game road-trip for the Spurs before the break.

“This was a long road trip, and the last game of that trip is tough,” San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said after beating the Thunder. “Everybody wants to go home. They hung in there pretty good and did a good job against a really well coached, aggressive OKC team.”

Now San Antonio will play three more away from home in a span of four days to finish its annual Rodeo Road Trip.

The victory was No. 1,333 in Popovich’s 26-year, head-coaching career and allowed him to move past Lenny Wilkens for second place in league history. Only Don Nelson (1,335) remains ahead of Popovich.

The Wizards return to the court after a 117-103 road victory over the Brooklyn Nets on Feb. 14 in the second game of a road back-to-back. Rui Hachimura scored 20 points while Corey Kispert added 16, Ish Smith had 15 points and Deni Avdija hit for 13 in the victory, Washington’s third in its past five games.

The Wizards made 16 of their 18 shots in the fourth quarter and outscored the Brooklyn 39-25 after blowing a 13-point lead in the third.

“It was good energy,” Hachimura said. “Everybody was sharing the ball. We had a good flow, and I was in a good rhythm, too. And we were defending. We still have a lot of chance to make the playoffs. We got to push it.”

Washington is one of the most changed teams in the league after the trade deadline — the highlight was the Wizards’ acquisition of Kristaps Porzingis from the Dallas Mavericks — and, like San Antonio, is in the mix for one of the play-in spots (or better) as season is heads to its final third.

“The overall pulse of the group is much more relaxed,” Wizards coach Wes Unseld Jr. said. “They know this is our group going forward, so they kind of relax and just play. “But we still want to approach these games as always: We want to win as many games as we can. That’s the priority — attack the last 24 (games) aggressively.”

–Field Level Media