SAN ANTONIO — If you wanted to measure how long it takes for dynasties to fade and eras to turn in the NBA, the Washington Wizards’ 127-106 win Monday at AT&T Center would be a good place to start. The bedrock of a successful franchise remains intact in San Antonio, an organization that has strongly and smartly tethered itself to its glory days.
Case in point: The fan giveaway for the next Spurs game, as part of a season-long celebration of the franchise’s 50th anniversary, is a bobblehead of Hall of Famer Manu Ginóbili.
But five titles in 16 years had consequences in the NBA draft, and the Spurs don’t have the talent they once did — certainly not enough talent or experience to fend off the hottest team in the NBA. The surging Wizards came to town Monday with a mission: secure their longest winning streak of the season and get a 23-year-old monkey off their back.
Call the zookeeper. The chimp is gone.
The Wizards’ sixth straight win held far more importance to Washington than it felt in sparsely attended AT&T Center. Washington beat the Spurs in San Antonio for the first time since Dec. 11, 1999, a game with a score indicative of the era — 99-89 — that included Juwan Howard and Rod Strickland in the starting lineup for Washington.
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Seven members of the Spurs’ current roster hadn’t yet been born.
Coach Wes Unseld Jr. joked that he had some ownership over the drought because he was an advance scout with the team in 1999.
“Every streak is meant to be broken,” he said with a smile.
The Wizards were downright giddy after the victory. Bradley Beal felt no need to downplay the mixture of relief and joy he felt at the final buzzer — relief at vanquishing the streak and joy that it came amid a winning stretch. The Wizards’ six straight wins make up the longest active winning streak in the NBA. Five of those victories have come on the road.
“Knowing that this team has had our number for a long time, it’s just amazing that we can continue to build on the momentum we have been building on,” Beal said. “There’s no better feeling than that. At least for me, that boosted [the win] a little bit. Being here 11 years, haven’t won here ever — that’s kind of crazy. Feels good to knock that off the list.”
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As if extending a winning streak and snapping a losing streak weren’t enough, Washington had a third reason to celebrate Monday. Third-season forward Deni Avdija led the team with a career-high 25 points to cap an impressive four-game stretch.
Washington was without starting center Daniel Gafford (non-covid illness) and sleepwalked through the first quarter, committing careless turnovers and playing defense that served as a reminder that this was Day 8 of a road trip. Jeremy Sochan, the Spurs’ most recent lottery pick, rattled off 15 points.
The Wizards were still in control and led by eight heading into halftime, but they didn’t cement their lead until the second half. Corey Kispert went 3 for 3 from the three-point line in the third quarter and Avdija had nine points; he finger-rolled a layup with two defenders chasing him down, then celebrated by running toward Beal and Kispert at midcourt with a wide grin and enthusiastic fist-shaking.
Nodding, Avdija mimed revving a motorcycle. Beal and Kispert nodded and revved back, and Avdija’s recently acquired nickname had a moment: “Turbo,” his teammates call him, because of his moves in the video game series NBA 2K.
The 22-year-old said he was playing one-on-one with point guard Monte Morris after practice one day when Morris said, “all he does is turbo and square” — commands on a video game controller — and the nickname was born.
“The first game they called me turbo, I did some turbo moves,” Avdija said. “. . . It gives us also, like, some happiness boost. This situation, all the turbo stuff, our chemistry is even better now.”
Avdija finished 10 for 12 from the field and added nine rebounds, evidence of what Unseld views as his recent aggressiveness. Unseld noted that Avdija is playing downhill, getting to the free throw line and attacking the basket with stronger finishes.
“It’s more of the quick decisions, where he’s not overthinking it,” Unseld said. “He’s making the right play at the right time. . . . If it feels like he’s got an angle and he can attack, he’s going to do that.”
Avdija led seven players in double figures.
Beal had 21 points, seven rebounds and seven assists, and Kristaps Porzingis had 17 points, nine rebounds and seven assists in his return from a three-game absence because of a left ankle sprain.
Keldon Johnson led San Antonio with 26 points, but they made barely a dent. Washington had 16 three-pointers to snap its losing streak in San Antonio with flair.
“Just staying consistent,” Avdija said of his big game. “First of all, the confidence the guys give me, they really want me to succeed and be aggressive. Since they gave me that nickname, I really am just being more aggressive — that’s about it. But I’m just enjoying [it] — that’s the most important for me.”
Here’s what else you need to know about the Wizards’ win:
Gafford joins injury list
Gafford missed the game because of a non-covid illness. Unseld said the big man woke up feeling under the weather.
Forward Anthony Gill missed his second consecutive game after he tested positive Saturday in New Orleans.