Duncan scored 23 points and reserve Roger Mason Jr. added a season-high 20 to lead the San Antonio Spurs to their fifth straight victory on Saturday night, 97-86 over the Wizards, who remained enveloped in a gun controversy surrounding Gilbert Arenas.
Held to 10 points in the paint over the first three quarters, San Antonio scored six from close range in the final 12 minutes. Duncan's jump-hook gave the Spurs an 81-80 lead with 6:21 left in the game, and he followed that with two free throws as part of a decisive 12-2 run.
Duncan wasn't happy the Spurs didn't seize command earlier. San Antonio's bench outscored Washington's 41-13.
"We're not where we want to be, obviously," said Duncan. "We need some big wins on the road. We need to beat some of the good teams on the road. Once we start doing that, our confidence will build. ... There are still a lot of hiccups throughout the game."
Hitting open shots from long range, however, wasn't an issue against Washington, which was successful at forcing the Spurs to a perimeter offense.
Mason was accurate early, hitting all four of his 3-point attempts in the first half. Washington wanted to avoid double-teaming Duncan down low to prevent easy 3s from a free man; but when the Wizards collapsed on Duncan, it played into the hands of the Spurs, who finished 8 for 12 from beyond the arc.
"I think tonight we doubled [Duncan] sometimes when we weren't supposed to," said Wizards center Brendan Haywood. "Duncan had it rolling. A double couldn't have hurt."
Added Spurs coach Gregg Popovich: "Roger Mason was great. He allowed us to stay in it the first half. ... I told them [at halftime], say 'Thank you, Roger,' for keeping us in it."
Tony Parker had 12 points for the Spurs, whose winning streak matches a season high. San Antonio has won four straight on the road and nine in a row against the Wizards.
Arenas did not comment before the game on investigations by the NBA, U.S. Attorney's Office and District of Columbia police over allegations that he stored unloaded firearms in his locker in the team's Verizon Center locker room.
After the game, Arenas would not speak in specifics about the incident or the probes, but said: "That's bad judgment on my part to store them in here, and I take responsibility for that."
Arenas missed five of his first seven attempts from the floor before hitting a running 37-footer as time expired at the end of the first quarter. He finished 10 for 25 from the field.
Wizards coach Flip Saunders hinted at changes in the wake of a slipshod defensive effort in Tuesday's home loss to Oklahoma City, then made only minor adjustments: inserting Andray Blatche at forward in place of guard Randy Foye and moving swingman Butler from guard to forward.
But a jittery spell as the final quarter began was Washington's undoing.
"We play ... the beginning of the fourth quarter, the first five minutes, like it's the beginning of the game," Saunders said. "Like we're feeling each other out. By that point, you should know where you're at and you should be in attack mode."
Still, the Wizards were pleased with a stronger defensive effort -- even if it left room for fourth-quarter improvement.
"You see better rotation, better commitment," said Butler. "It's a process, it's going to take time. The disposition has changed."
Washington responded by quickly falling behind 18-10 as Duncan made his first four shots from the field. The Wizards used a 10-0 run in the second quarter to erase the lead, going ahead 43-40 when Butler scored on a layup with 5:47 left in the first half and followed with a 19-foot jumper.
Arenas had six points as the Wizards used an 11-2 run late in the third quarter to take a 71-66 lead. San Antonio was limited to one field goal in the final 4:44 of the period -- Keith Bogans' follow of Mason's miss to make it 71-70 with less than a second remaining.
Saunders said before the game he was counting on Haywood for a strong defensive effort against the Spurs. But by the time 9 1/2 minutes had elapsed, Haywood was on the bench with two fouls. His replacement, Fabricio Oberto, had picked up two personals barely two minutes into the second quarter. ... Washington last defeated the Spurs on Nov. 12, 2005. ... Butler twice forced jump balls by tying up Duncan in the second half. ... The Spurs improved to 4-9 when trailing after three periods.