SAN ANTONIO — San Antonio point guard Cory Joseph didn't want to hinder the Spurs after battling an upper respiratory infection the past two days. He ended up hurting the Washington Wizards.
Joseph had 19 points and the Spurs overcame Washington's fast start to beat the Wizards for the 17th straight time, 101-92 on Saturday night.
Joseph opted to play despite running a high fever Friday, but he and San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich were cautious.
"We were just going to try to test it out," Joseph said. "If I felt like I was gassed or felt weak out there, well we didn't want to hurt the team out there, so I was going to let him know."
Instead, he provided the team with a needed boost.
San Antonio has won 14 straight games at home over Washington, but this was among the more unexpected. With Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard injured and Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili struggling, the Spurs turned to the role players that helped them win a championship last season.
Tiago Splitter scored 16 points, Patty Mills had 15 and Boris Diaw added 14 for San Antonio, which shot just 4 for 16 on 3-pointers. Ginobili had five points, and Duncan four.
Joseph was one point shy of matching his career high and also helped hold Washington point guard John Wall to 15 points on 7-for-13 shooting.
"The last couple of games, he's been very important," Ginobili said. "Cory playing sick and a little weak, really attacked the rim well. He made a lot of jumpers. He made a lot of things happen for us, especially in the first half when we were not playing at our best."
Washington shot 67 percent in the first quarter and 60 percent at the half.
But Washington scored only four points in the final 5 1/2 minutes. Bradley Beal's 3-pointer had pulled the Wizards to 91-88, but they went more than 4 minutes without scoring after that.
"Down the stretch, they made the hustle plays," Wall said. "They got the 50/50 balls. You look at the stat sheet, we did everything right, we've got to get to learn how to get to the level of these last two teams we played. Execute and have guys make big plays and make those shots."
Beal and John Wall led the Wizards with 15 points each. Marcin Gortat and Nene had 12 apiece. With Duncan and Ginobili combining to shoot 4 for 16 from the field, the Spurs turned to their super subs from last season.
Mills opened the charge, running down a long rebound, sprinting to the left corner and rattling home a 3-pointer to give the Spurs an 18-14 lead with 6 1/2 minutes left in the first quarter. Mills would score 10 points while playing just 5 1/2 minutes in the opening quarter, including a backdoor cut for a layup off Ginobili's one-handed, whipped pass into the lane.
Mills was 3 for 5 in scoring a season-high in his fourth game since missing offseason shoulder surgery.
"I think he feels a little more comfortable every game," Popovich said. "It just takes some time. His shot looks a little bit better and he's starting to figure out where to be on the court."
Diaw took over once Mills slowed in the second half.
After scoring six consecutive points for the Spurs, Diaw passed out of a double team to Belinelli a 74-73 lead.
Belinelli laid up a pass near the rim fired by Ginobili after Duncan tipped back a missed shot to the Argentine guard.
"In this stretch, we've lost a couple of things from a defensive standpoint that we have to get back in terms of helping one another. In a game like this, when it's tight, those little breakdowns kill you. We had too many of those tonight. This team will make you pay when you make mistakes like that."
Wizards: Washington's last victory over San Antonio was Nov. 12, 2005, and their previous win in San Antonio was Dec. 11, 1999. ... After verifying on replay that Joseph was shooting a 3-pointer when he was fouled by Andre Miller, official Joey Crawford smiled and said, "I was doubted." ... The Wizards averaged 102.6 points while going 12-4 in December.
Spurs: Popovich substituted his entire lineup three times, using the hockey-style line change for the third time in two weeks. He first employed the strategy Dec. 19 against Memphis following San Antonio's triple overtime loss to Portland and did so again Dec. 31 against New Orleans on the second night of a back-to-back.
The Spurs were celebrating 80s night, but there were five players born in the 70s on the court in Duncan (1976), Ginobili ('77), Miller ('76), Paul Pierce ('77) and Rasual Butler ('79).
Wizards: Visit New Orleans on Monday night.
Spurs: Host Detroit on Tuesday night.
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