- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 2, 2006

There’s no secret in the NBA about what separates the bad teams from the good, and the good from the great. The San Antonio Spurs are a great team with one great player.

And while that great player is Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili is pretty darn good. He demonstrated this at the end of the San Antonio Spurs’ 106-99 victory over the Washington Wizards last night at AT&T; Center, scoring his team’s final 16 points.

“That’s the thing that makes champions, either you make plays or you get stopped,” Wizards forward Antawn Jamison said. “They did a great job as far as making it tough for us and we couldn’t capitalize on a couple of opportunities.

“But overall I think we played pretty good. I think if we play this way for the final 10 games of the season, we’re going to be a tough team to beat in the playoffs.”

The Wizards completed their longest trip of the season — one against the Western Conference — with a 3-3 record, good enough for fifth place in the Eastern Conference.

The Wizards shot 50.7 percent for the game, hitting 25 of 36 shots in the second half.

Gilbert Arenas, who missed all 12 of his field goals the last time the Wizards played here, finished with 31 points and eight rebounds. Jamison had 26 points and eight rebounds, and after missing all seven of his shots in the first half, Caron Butler scored 19 of his 21 points in the second half. Butler also had eight rebounds.

The Wizards were forced to fight an uphill battle for most of the game, but in the third quarter they outscored the Spurs (57-16), led by 10 points and looked as if they might just shake off a shaky first half and pull out a huge road win.

But the Spurs scored 39 points in the fourth quarter, led by Ginobili, who made all three of his field goal attempts and hit all nine of his free-throw attempts.

“I’m proud of the way we played, and I’m glad to be going back home,” Wizards coach Eddie Jordan said. “This was a tough trip and really it’s not over. It’s almost like this is a 10-game road trip.”

Jordan was referring to the one game the Wizards will play at home Tuesday before hitting the road again for games in Boston and then Atlanta.

Tony Parker led the Spurs with 28 points and six assists. Ginobili finished with 22 points and Tim Duncan, who played with a touch of the flu, finished with 16 points and 14 rebounds.

The Wizards had a chance to win late.

Antonio Daniels, who has a championship ring with the Spurs, pulled the Wizards to within 92-91 when he made one of two free throws after being fouled by Duncan.

Daniels suffered a gash over his left eye and had to leave the game after his attempts with 2:35 left. He did return to the game with his head bandaged.

Ginobili extended the Spurs’ lead to 97-91 with a pair of free throws followed by a 3-pointer with 1:45 left.

After the Wizards cut it to 97-94, Ginobili struck again, this time weaving through the Wizards’ defense for a layup. Fouled on the drive with 59.3 seconds left, Ginobili converted the free throw for a 100-94 San Antonio lead.

The closest the Wizards would get down the stretch was 102-99 on Butler’s 3-pointer with 25.9 left.

Early on the Spurs made things difficult for Washington.

They limited the Wizards to just 33 points in the first half and held them to just 32.4 percent from the field.

The Wizards’ low shooting percentage might have been a byproduct of some intimidation provided by the Spurs, who rejected nine of their shots in the first half alone.

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