The Washington Wizards came close to ending a staggering run of futility in San Antonio, but Kawhi Leonard made certain the stretch would continue.
It was a heartbreaking loss for the Wizards, who dropped to 0-2 on this three-game trip that finishes Monday in Brooklyn. Bradley Beal was 5-for-5 from beyond the arc — the last of which gave the Wizards a one-point lead with 53 seconds remaining. Then, needing another big shot while down two with 19 seconds to go, John Wall attacked the rim and tied it at 105.
Beal scored 23 points (7-for-11 from the floor) while Wall finished with 17 points and 15 assists. Marcin Gortat anchored the front line, scoring 21 points and securing 18 rebounds for his team-leading 11th double-double. But it wasn't enough to keep the Wizards from falling to 6-12.
Nicolas Laprovittola, a 26-year-old rookie from Argentina, replaced the injured Tony Parker as starting point guard. Even with a little-known backup, the Spurs rolled on. Though Laprovittola put up modest numbers (seven points, three assists) and starting shooting guard Danny Green was held scoreless through the three quarters, San Antonio found a way. After Beal's late three-pointer, Green responded by knocking down a 24-foot jumper, his first three of the game.
Last year, when Scott Brooks was not coaching, he visited several NBA training camps and spent several days with the Spurs — immersing himself in the culture crafted by Coach Gregg Popovich. Before Friday night's game, Brooks explained why the San Antonio blueprint works even with little-known backups.
"The Spurs' success didn't happen overnight, 23 years ago it wasn't like it is now. It's been like this for 20 years since Pop has been here," Brooks said. "They have a lot of good basketball players who know how to play and they play well together. They're selfless, they're committed to one goal and they all have the common goal of winning a championship. The organization has done that for years and it's a machine. Every team in the league is trying to create that atmosphere and it's hard to do but they have that."
At least early in the game, the Spurs' machine needed time to rev up as the Wizards opened with an 18-7 lead. During that stretch as Wall commanded the sets, assisting on five of the team's seven field goals, Beal and Gortat combined for 14 points. However Washington endangered its lead by scoring once through the final two minutes. Then, in a change of pace, the Wizards' bench offered a hand.
While four reserve players and Markieff Morris formed a unit, the Wizards built a seven-point lead. Also, before Brooks began substituting in starters, the Wizards' bench had outscored San Antonio, 15-12.
But when the Spurs finally chased down Washington and pulled ahead in the fourth quarter, the Wizards' starters sparked the comeback.
With 9:24 left in the game, Laprovittola drove to the rim for a layup and extended the Spurs' lead to 88-78, their largest of the game. Showing poise and even hitting clutch shots within the final minute, the Wizards gave themselves a chance.
But ultimately, San Antonio turned to its star, and Leonard delivered. He matched Beal with 23 points, none bigger than his final two.
Redskins TE Reed won't play Sunday
Washington Redskins tight end Jordan Reed has been ruled out of Sunday's game at Arizona, coach Jay Gruden said Friday after a third consecutive day of practice in which the team's leading receiver was unable to participate. Reed wore his No. 86 jersey but watched from a chair as the Redskins (6-4-1) practiced one final time in Ashburn, Va., before boarding an afternoon flight to Arizona, where they'll face the 4-6-1 Cardinals on Sunday. Reed, who leads the Redskins with 59 catches, suffered a Grade 3 separation of the AC joint in left shoulder during the second quarter of the Thanksgiving Day loss at Dallas. In other news, the Redskins promoted Dashaun Phillips to the 53-man roster to provide depth at nickel back. They cut backup tackle Blaine Clausell and waived safety David Bruton Jr., who had been on injured reserve after an early-season concussion.
— Liz Clarke and Mike Jones, The Washington Post
Women's college basketball: Braennan Farrar scored 11 points, but Morgan State (1-7) fell, 61-42, to host Dayton (3-4). The Flyers opened with a 15-8 run and led by as many as 22 points in the fourth quarter.
College football: Navy quarterback Will Worth was named the American Sports Network's Football Bowl Subdivision Player of the Year honors with 64 percent of the fan vote, beating Louisiana Tech's Ryan Higgins (25 percent), East Carolina's Zay Jones (10 percent) and Western Michigan's Corey Davis (1 percent).
Baseball: Orioles purchasing assistant Linda Ashauer will participate on a panel about "How To Do Business with MLB" on Wednesday at 9 a.m. at the annual MLB Winter Diversity Summit at the Gaylord National Resort in Oxon Hill.
Major League Soccer: D.C. United re-signed U.S. national team center back Steve Birnbaum to a multi-year contract. The third-year United defender had his most productive MLS season in 2016, setting career highs in appearances (26), starts (26), minutes (2,340), goals (three), assists (two) and shots (33).
Sun staff and news services contributed to this article.