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Shorthanded Spurs make Pop proud

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WASHINGTON — Gregg Popovich’s coaching career includes four NBA championships and five finals appearances. With that resume, the San Antonio Spurs’ coach knows what a tough victory looks like. Rallying, surviving and eventually downing the Washington Wizards in double overtime without any of the team’s stars counts high on his list.

Forward Tim Duncan had a season-high 31 points and 11 rebounds and guard Patty Mills scored 23 points as the Spurs defeated the Wizards for a 16th straight time, 125-118, in double overtime on Wednesday night.

Mills scored 11 in the two extra sessions for the Spurs (36-13), who survived without guard Tony Parker the entire second half and minus Duncan after the big man fouled out in the second overtime. Forward Kawhi Leonard (fractured hand) and guard Manu Ginobili (left hamstring tightness) never suited up, meaning the Spurs were without their top four scorers for the final 4:13.

“That’s one of the finest wins I’ve ever been associated with, and I’m saying that truthfully,” Popovich said after San Antonio’s third straight win. “For these guys, I couldn’t be prouder of what they did with Kawhi, Manu and Tony not out there.”

Popovich said Parker would not play Thursday at the Brooklyn Nets due to back stiffness.

The wild game Wednesday featured both teams making frantic comebacks before Washington faltered in the final period, missing all 11 of its field-goal attempts.

Guard Marco Belinelli scored 14, and his layup with 2:02 remaining gave the Spurs the lead for good at 119-117. This came after San Antonio trailed by 17 points in the first half, scored the final five points of regulation to force the first overtime and then blew a seven-point lead in that session.

Guard John Wall scored 29 points for the Wizards, including six in the final 10.9 seconds of the first overtime to force the second extra period. Seven players for Washington (24-24) scored in double figures, including guard Bradley Beal with 19.

The Wizards last defeated San Antonio 110-95 on Nov. 12, 2005. Washington has lost nine consecutive at home in the series. The Spurs swept the season series, including a 92-79 home victory on Nov. 13.

“It’s a frustrating loss because we had that game,” said center Marcin Gortat, who scored 11 points. “We really thought we (were going to) break history today and finally beat them after nine years. I guess we have to wait another six months.”

The loss came one game after the Wizards’ record crossed into winning territory for the first time since 2009.

Forward Danny Green had 22 points for the Spurs, including a 3-pointer with 1:16 left in the second overtime for a 122-117 lead.

Behind 14 first-quarter points from Wall and 13 San Antonio turnovers, Washington led 62-48 at halftime.

Duncan scored San Antonio’s first six points of a 9-0 run and 14 of San Antonio’s first 21 points in the third. Washington entered the fourth leading 83-82 before the crowd of 15,791.

“I knew Pop was going to pull the plug at some point if we didn’t make a run, especially having another game tomorrow,” said Duncan, who played 41 minutes.

The Spurs trailed 99-94 with 90 seconds remaining in regulation when Mills made a 3-pointer. Duncan’s floater tied the game at 99-99 with 1:02 left.

Trailing 111-104 lead with 2:01 remaining in the first overtime, Washington closed the period with 11-4 run.

Wall scored the last eight, including six inside the final 11 seconds. Coming out of a timeout down 115-113 with 6.1 seconds left, Wall intercepted Duncan’s pass across halfcourt. He quickly dribbled the 65 feet back for the tying layup with 1.9 seconds remaining. It turned out to be Washington’s final basket.

“John made three plays to get us to another overtime and we laid an egg in the second overtime,” said forward Trevor Ariza, who had 15 points and 10 rebounds.

Beal, who missed several games this season with a leg injury, did not play in either overtime due to a minutes restriction.

Another limited roster awaits Popovich on Thursday, which is why he joked that the 37-year-old Duncan would play 48 minutes after logging 41 against the Wizards.

Upon hearing his coach’s plan, Duncan said, “I am absolutely up for that. It sounds like fun.”

NOTES: Wizards F Trevor Booker returned to the lineup after missing Monday’s game for personal reasons. … The Wizards had two straight — double-digit victories over the Oklahoma City Thunder and Portland Trail Blazers. … San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, a Russian history major at Air Force, talked pregame about the Winter Olympics in Sochi, including his anxiety when watching figure skating. “I can’t stand it when they fall. I feel awful for them. It’s like missing two free throws at the end of a basketball game,” he said. … The third game of San Antonio’s nine-game “rodeo road trip” comes Thursday at the Brooklyn Nets. Washington’s fourth straight home game comes Friday against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Up to the minute news and reports from the news wire of The Sports Xchange.

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