WASHINGTON -- Oh, the humiliation! The player that got away, Roger Mason, comes back with the San Antonio Spurs and drops 25 points -- on a night the awful Washington Wizards post their lowest points total in six years.
A season of embarrassment for president Ernie Grunfield's front office hit another low Saturday as the travel-weary Spurs beat the Wizards 98-67. San Antonio wrapped up its annual rodeo road stretch with a 5-3 record, while Washington was left to wonder how much better than 30 games under .500 it would be if Mason were still playing in his hometown.
"That's what we need," Wizards forward Antawn Jamison said. "We need a veteran who knows how to play the game, a guy who can play multiple positions, a guy who can knock down big shots, a guy who is defensively sound. That's a luxury we had last year, and that's a luxury we don't have this year."
Mason went 9-for-15 from the field, including 5-for-9 from 3-point range, and had 10 points and two steals in the 19-4 run that capped the third quarter and gave the Spurs a 78-57 lead. He was done for the night after that, taking a place on the bench as coach Gregg Popovich rested his starters in the blowout.
"Definitely wasn't 'just another game,'" said Mason, who was born in the nation's capital and played the last two seasons with the Wizards. "It's always exciting playing in front of family and friends. Washington Bullets, growing up here, then playing for them for two years. I'll see these guys in the summer."
Michael Finley added 19 points, and Tim Duncan had 12 points and 11 rebounds for the Spurs, who jumped to a 19-9 lead and were never seriously threatened by the worst team in the Eastern Conference. The win capped 10,761 miles of travel over 19 days while their home court was occupied by the annual San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo.
The Spurs also improved to 2-1 since Manu Ginobili was sidelined with a stress fracture in his right ankle injury. Ginobili is expected to miss 2-3 weeks, but Mason was an especially suitable replacement against a team that sorely misses him.
Mason would have liked to stay with the Wizards, but Grunfeld decided the price was too steep. Instead, the guard signed a two-year, $7.3 million contract with the Spurs as a free agent last summer and is having the best season of his career.
"I think I would have made a big impact. Who's to say?" Mason said. "You never know. That's just the confidence I have. I'm just glad I made an impact on this team."
Mason certainly could have been a fourth option on a night when Caron Butler (24 points), Jamison (16) and Darius Songaila (15) accounted for all but two points scored by the entire Wizards roster through the first three quarters.
The 67 points matched the third-lowest scoring output in Wizards franchise history, as well as the fewest allowed this season by the Spurs. Washington was denied a chance to post its first three-game winning streak.
The Spurs led 25-18 after the first quarter and were up by 19 after a 10-0 run in the second. The Wizards answered with an 11-1 spurt, but a jumper by Mason and a 3-pointer from Finley made it 52-38 at halftime.
"I've seen it go both ways. Some people lay an egg. Some people do what Roger did tonight," Popovich said. "Obviously, he had to feel real good about what he did."
The Spurs have won six straight over the Wizards by an average of 16.8 points. ... Popovich, who majored in Soviet Studies at Air Force, took the Spurs to visit the Holocaust Museum in Washington on Friday. ... Washington's Andray Blatche missed four consecutive free throws over a 12-second span in the second quarter during the Spurs' 10-0 run. ... Duncan on the road trip: "Every year, we seem to make something out of it. There's no way to deny it. Every year, we come out of this road trip a better team. We find a way to bond. We find a way to do something on the road. It works for us." ... Mason said he had requests for 50 tickets for the game. "I'm glad we only play these guys once" in Washington, he said.
- Violet Palmer
- Bill Spooner
- Derek Richardson