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Marcin Gortat's rebirth huge for Wizards vs. Hawks in playoffs: 'It's about time to wake up'

Marcin Gortat's rebirth huge for Wizards vs. Hawks in playoffs: 'It's about time to wake up'

What Marcin Gortat has done in the first two games of the Wizards' first-round series vs. the Atlanta Hawks might be his two best performances all season. It's an about-face from where he was three weeks ago.

Why the change?

"The part where you suck. It just tells you that it's about time to wake up and start doing your job. The fact that I got to accept what's going on," said Gortat to CSNmidatlantic.com before the regular season ended. "The fact that this is how it's going to be and I got to perform now and then just keep fighting for my opportunities, minutes, touches, whatever it is. At the end of the day I think that that's what happened. The Utah game is where I started playing better. Maybe numbers don't show but I think it was the turning point."

Gortat, who had begun to lose playing time to Ian Mahinmi after the backup returned from knee procedures, had just four points and 11 rebounds in tha regular-season loss March 31 in Salt Lake City.

[RELATED: Wizards must fix Brandon Jennings' defense ASAP]

Against Atlanta in the playoffs, he has had 14 points and 10 rebounds in both games, each victories, including five blocks in Game 2. And combined he has shot 14-for-21, or 67%, from the field.

Gortat has had far better games than even those statistically speaking, namely 21 points and 18 rebounds in a two-point loss to the San Antonio Spurs. But none of it shows his defensive effort against Dwight Howard, what he does pre-catch to deny him post position, switching out on guards such as Tim Hardaway in space and defending All-Star Paul Millsap when the Hawks go to small-ball at the five.

Mahinmi is out at least the first three games with Atlanta because of a left calf strain. There is no other true center on the roster and Gortat is it. Whatever the Wizards have needed from him, he's given it to them going into Saturday's Game 3 at Phillips Arena.

“I thought he has been great both games. He has an athletic big that can have monster games in Dwight Howard," coach Scott Brooks said. "He’s done a great job of just staying around the basket, staying in front of them. He’s done a good job. That’s what he’s done. He’s a big part of our team, and when he defends he helps us. He’s not known as a defender because he does so many good things offensively, but he knows how to play. He had some tough assignments. Millsap is not an easy guard for anybody to play, and he did a good job of guarding him, also.”

[RELATED: Wizards escape after Beal comes alive in Game 2]

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Kelly Oubre, Jr. may take on larger role due to injuries, and rebounding could be key

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Kelly Oubre, Jr. may take on larger role due to injuries, and rebounding could be key

The Wizards have two players sidelined at the moment and both happen to play the same position. Markieff Morris was already out following the sports hernia surgery he had in September, then Jason Smith sprained his right shoulder defending a dunk attempt by Joel Embiid in the regular season opener on Wednesday night.

This has put head coach Scott Brooks in a tough predicament. He's trying to acclimate new players into his rotation, but now has no choice but to get creative. Smith is considered questionable for Friday night and is likely going to be limited, regardless when he returns.

If Smith misses time or is not 100 percent, the onus will fall mostly on third-year forward Kelly Oubre, Jr. with Mike Scott behind him. Oubre is not a power forward, but is versatile enough to co-exist with Otto Porter alongside John Wall, Bradley Beal and Marcin Gortat. The Wizards utilized that lineup last season at times and relied on it heavily once Smith departed Wednesday night's game. Porter could be looked as the four in that group, but he and Oubre are essentially interchangable on defense.

Oubre, 21, came through with 14 points, eight rebounds, two blocks and two steals against the Sixers. He knocked down three three-pointers and shot 5-of-10 from the field overall.

"I'm ready. I've worked for this moment. The season is here, so it's time to put the work to the test," Oubre said. "I feel very confident. I feel very relaxed. This is Year 3, so I'm excited for all the opportunities that may come."

[RELATED: OUBRE THREW DOWN A CRAZY DUNK VS. SIXERS]

Those eight rebounds stand out, in particular. Oubre averaged 3.3 rebounds last season, his second year in the NBA, in 20.3 minutes. Oubre had 14 in one of their preseason games and has clearly put extra focus on that part of his game.

One reporter (me) asked Oubre about his 'seven' rebounds in the opener and Oubre issued a quick correction, showing exactly how much attention he's paying to the stat.

"I had eight in the opener, but yeah," he said. "It's a big emphasis because that's what we need. We need guys to go in there and rebound, push the break and keep up the pace. That's the style of play that we're looking for, to play fast and play tough. Crashing the boards is something that I need to do to help the team."

Brooks sees a lot of potential in Oubre's ability on the glass. 

"I look at rebounding as a stat that Kelly can really be consistent with. He has the size, the strength, the length and the athleticism and the toughness to get in there and get some rebounds. I think you should be able to see [eight] every night. It's one of the things we talked about to improve defensively. We have to be a better defensive team," Brooks said.

The Wizards miss a lot more than rebounding if Morris and Smith aren't in the picture, of course. But Oubre's development in that area could be important in the Wizards' effort to compensate for two key injuries at the same position.

[RELATED: GORTAT PLAYED WITH A HEAVY HEART VS. SIXERS]

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John Wall's new motto Wolf Season has reached a new level

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John Wall's new motto Wolf Season has reached a new level

It started as an offseason hashtag. After Wednesday night's win over the Sixers, it was legitimized with a postgame quote.

John Wall wants everyone to know that it's Wolf Season and, according to another favorite hashtag of his, nobody is safe.

Wall brought it up himself on Wednesday when asked about dunking all over the Sixers. When asked what Wolf Season means, he replied: "Just keep watching."

Wall used the hashtag #wolfseason all summer long in photos on Instagram. He also used the phrase #wolfwall:

It's reminiscent of the Wolf of Wall St. He also referenced "Michael Jackson Thrilla Mode" on Instragram and the music video for 'Thriller' very famously had Jackson turn into a wolf:

Michael Jackson Thrilla Mode spilling sauce everywhere I go !! #WallWay #5Deep #BYB #WolfWall

A post shared by johnwall (@johnwall) on

Whatever Wall means by it, the rest of the NBA might want to take notice.

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