The negativity that Marcin Gortat spoke about feeling after the Wizards' last loss could be lifting. That's because they have the L.A. Lakers, one of the NBA's worst teams, coming to town on Wednesday which should give them two wins in a row.
Should. That's the key word.
"We can beat good teams by 20 points or lose to Philly on the road," Gortat said, alluding to last season when the Wizards lost consecutive games to the worst team in each conference, the Minnesota Timberwolves and then the 76ers. "We are a crazy team. It was a great win but don't get excited."
Tuesday, Gortat had a season-high four blocks, all coming in the first quarter when the Wizards (7-8) jumped out to a 10-0 lead in what became a 97-85 road win against the Cleveland Cavaliers. He finished with 15 points on 7-for-10 shooting and 11 rebounds. Their four-game losing streak was over, but can this be a launching pad for their first significant win streak of the season?
"There was a totally different approach today than the last few games," Gortat said. "We all bought in to what we were supposed to do. The main guy who led us was John (Wall) who had an outstanding effort and a lot of hustle plays. He played like he was just back to being him. It was huge. We played hard. We were the team that threw the punch."
Gortat knows his team is prone to high peaks and low valleys. It has been their identity each of his three seasons in D.C.
To understand Gortat is to know he wears his emotions on his sleeve. When he's critical of the vibe inside Verizon Center, and he doesn't spare being critical of himself, it comes from a good place. It'll result in occasional clashes with coach Randy Wittman, who was an old-school player groomed by an old-school coach in Bobby Knight.
One moment Gortat prefers to have separation from Nene so the Wizards can spread the floor with four shooters. The next minute, he misses having him around to help rebound. The Wizards are up and down so naturally he is, too. Are the Wizards going to commit to going big to exploit big lineups or go big to exploit small-ball lineups from other teams?
Against Cleveland, they were both. They measured up with the size of Timofey Mozgov inside as Gortat dominated that matchup and then went small without Gortat on the floor -- four guards and a wing in Otto Porter -- and still ran the Cavs ragged.
The linchpin in both lineup scenarios? Jared Dudley.
Kris Humphries started the first 13 games at power forward for the Wizards, but in their last two games that has been Dudley. A better "stretch" four option, he played with Gortat in a pace-and-space offense with the Phoenix Suns from 2010-13. Even in an 84-82 loss to the Toronto Raptors on Saturday, the Wizards' defense was as good as ever.
"Jared is going to do a lot of great things for me offensively. He's going to cover for me especially if I'm going to rotate (to help), defensively he's going to cover for me under the basket," Gortat said. "We understand each other very well."
They lost the rebounding battle 47-39 but all 11 of Gortat's rebounds were on the defensive end which typically require more effort (and don't result in points like offensive ones) and had to impress Wittman.
And Gortat's shot blocks put Wall in transition. Then he altered two shots by LeBron James on drives in the fourth quarter that prevented the Cavs from getting the deficit down to single digits. Sometimes from tension comes gems like what happened Tuesday.
"I know I have to be the anchor. I have to be the bigger force inside the paint," Gortat said. "If I'm going to block the shot I got to make sure I'm going to get it."
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