On Monday the Wizards proved they can still play with the big boys - even without their superstar - when they soundly defeated Dallas 110-98 on their home floor. Tonight they take aim at an even tougher foe, the reigning NBA champion San Antonio Spurs. At 12-3, the Spurs lead the Western Conference and enter tonight's contest with a perfect 8-0 record at AT&T Center. It doesn't help that the Wiz haven't won in San Antonio since Dec. 11, 1999, but hey, they hadn't won in Dallas in their previous six trips ... so why not end another streak?
The Wiz face a Spurs team coming off an unexpected blowout loss at Sacramento (5-9) in which free agent cast-off Beno Udrih - per Gregg Popovich's pre-game prediction - torched his former team for a career-high 27 points on 8-of-12 shooting. The champs had been riding a five-game winning streak and they'll certainly be looking to get back on track against a short-handed Washington squad.
- Antonio Daniels/DeShawn Stevenson v. Tony Parker - The key to the Kings' victory in Sacramento was their defense of Eva Longoria's Parisian Prince. Udrih not only lit it up on the offensive end, but he matched it with his lock-down D on Parker. He held the Spurs' point guard to 12 points on 5-of-13 shooting, and forced Parker into four turnovers. While Daniels should be able to exploit Parker with his strength and ability to take it to the rim, Stevenson will likely be charged with the task of defending Parker on the other end. He'll need to limit the Frenchman's penetration, forcing him to give the ball up early to his teammates on the perimeter. Speaking of the perimeter, the Wiz finally caught a break against Dallas after two straight games of unheard of opponent three-point percentages. We know what Big Shot Bob and Manu Ginobli can do from outside, but if the Wiz can force the Spurs into contested jump shots and limit their layups, they could make a game out it.
- Caron Butler has been tremendous for Washington all season. He leads the team in scoring (23.3 ppg), steals (2.21), field goal percentage (52.8), three-point field goal percentage (46.7), and ranks third in rebounding (7.2) and assists (3.2). He'll need his to put up his usual stellar numbers and then some if the Wizards want to pull out another road win. With Brendan Haywood and Andray Blatche inside, the Wiz have little hope of slowing down The Big Fundamental, but winning the battle of the boards is essential.
- If the Wiz play a perfect game, get big production from their starters and a scoring boost from the bench and keep Ginobli and Parker off the free throw line, they've got a chance. That's why I'm taking the Spurs by 9.
-- The Tar Heel