- Associated Press - Thursday, March 22, 2018

SAN ANTONIO (AP) - The Spurs are suddenly playing well - and they can thank their recent poor play for that.

LaMarcus Aldridge had 27 points and nine rebounds, and San Antonio won its fifth straight, 98-90 over the Washington Wizards on Wednesday night to secure their 21st straight winning season.

Extending the NBA record for consecutive winning seasons was in doubt two weeks ago when the Spurs hit a 3-11 skid.

“I think we lost enough to refocus, as simple as that sounds,” San Antonio Gregg Popovich said. “Sure, we talked about (the team’s defense). We worked on it in shootarounds when we didn’t have practices. They’re an intelligent group and they realize if we don’t get that back together, we’ve got nothing, because we slip out offensively.”

San Antonio remained in sixth place in the Western Conference, a half-game behind fourth-place Oklahoma City. The Spurs close out a six-game homestand on Friday against Utah, which is 1½ games behind San Antonio in eighth place.

Bradley Beal and Kelly Oubre Jr. each had 21 points to lead the Wizards, who dropped into sixth in the Eastern Conference.

“We’ve got to realize what’s at stake,” Beal said. “If we keep going the way we’re going, we’re going to end up dropping. We might mess around and be eighth. So, we’ve got to do whatever it takes to get a win.”

San Antonio can sympathize, as its winning streak follows a three-game skid that briefly dropped the Spurs out of playoff position.

Aldridge has been critical to the turnaround, averaging 29.6 points and 9.2 rebounds during the streak.

“He’s doing everything right now,” San Antonio veteran Tony Parker said. “He’s playing unbelievable. He’s playing at a very high level and we need everything, all his points.

Against Washington, Aldridge scored nine points during a 23-9 run that gave San Antonio a 17-point lead with four minutes left in the third quarter.

Without injured All-Star John Wall, the Wizards were unable to answer.

“We just couldn’t make any shots in that third quarter and that was the game,” Washington coach Scott Brooks said. “I thought we had some pretty good looks and then we were playing from behind.”

The lead would extend to 22 points, allowing Spurs coach Gregg Popovich to rest his starters in the final four minutes.

Kyle Anderson added 16 points for San Antonio and Dejounte Murray had 10 rebounds.


Wizards: Injuries forced Washington to play with a 10-man roster. … Wall missed his 24th straight game following left knee surgery. The Wizards are hopeful Wall will return later this month. … Mike Scott and Jodie Meeks both missed the game because of illness.

Spurs: Kawhi Leonard missed his 63rd game this season while battling right quadriceps tendinopathy. … San Antonio players have missed 165 games total. … Aldridge is the 27th player in league history with 900-plus blocks and 16,000-plus points in his career. He is the only player to accomplish that feat since he began his career in 2006. … Murray had 10-plus rebounds for the 11th time this season, extending his own franchise record for point guards.


Manu Ginobili said the Spurs should not expect Leonard to return this season.

“He is not coming back,” Ginobili said following the team’s photo day Wednesday morning. “For me, he’s not coming back because it’s not helping. We fell for it a week ago, again. I guess you guys made us fall for it. But we have to think that he’s not coming back, that we are who we are, and that we’ve got to fight without him. That shouldn’t be changing, at least until he is ready for the jump ball.”


Utah has won the first three meetings against San Antonio, giving the Jazz a possible playoff tiebreaker against the Spurs if they end the regular season with the same record.

“They’re a good team, but I still feel as though we let a couple of games go,” Spurs forward Rudy Gay said. “Obviously, they have any tiebreaker beating us three times, but I think for us we need to just go out there and get that win.”


Wizards: Host Denver on Friday night.

Spurs: Host Utah on Friday night.


More NBA basketball: https://apnews.com/tag/NBAbasketball

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