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Gortat comes up big for Wizards in tough matchup vs. Towns, Wolves

Gortat comes up big for Wizards in tough matchup vs. Towns, Wolves

Marcin Gortat was presented with a tough assignment on Friday night, to step into the ring with one of the NBA's best young players, a 7-foot anomaly of skill and size named Karl-Anthony Towns who has been lighting up the league from both above the rim and behind the three-point line. He shoots well from long range, he dribbles past people, he blocks shots and the consensus is that Towns will be competing for MVP awards for many years to come.

Before Friday's game at the Verizon Center, head coach Scott Brooks said the Wizards would start the game with Gortat on him. Brooks said that "hopefully we can contain him."

By Towns' usual standards, they did. The former No. 1 overall pick scored 18 points, but shot just 7-for-17 from the field. Gortat responded to the challenge on defense and did his best to keep up with Towns, who is as mobile a big man as you will find in the game of basketball.

"March did a good job of knowing where he was in transition and getting out to him on the perimeter, just making it difficult for him," guard Bradley Beal said. "[Towns] is somebody that loves to go 1-on-1 and doesn't like to pass much. March did a good job of containing him."

Gortat had three blocks to go along with 19 points and 10 rebounds, his 21st double-double of the season. One of his blocks was an emphatic slam on Towns two minutes into the first quarter. Towns drove to his right, only to see Gortat swat the ball out of bounds.

The 19 points deserve their own acclaim, though. The Timberwolves feature two rim protectors down low in Towns and Gorgui Dieng. Despite that, Gortat was able to shoot 9-for-9 from the field. That's the most attempts for a perfect shooting night from a Wizards player since Ben Wallace went 9-for-9 himself in April of 1999.

That's a solid night, though guard John Wall wasn't quite impressed.

When told of the stat, Wall joked: "Did he shoot any shots outside the paint?" 

Wall had more jokes about the veteran center when discussing his game:

“When he’s dunking the ball and finishing around the paint, he makes us a better team. We try to tell him to stay away from the free-throw line and jump shots. I don’t call him the 'Polish Machine' unless he’s dunking like he was today, so he got the nickname back.”

All kidding aside, Wall and Gortat made a lethal combination in the Wizards' win. That included an alley-oop off a screen in the final minute to help seal the victory.

That connection was something Towns himself noted afterwards. As a young player on a team coming into his own, he admires their ability to consistently execute those types of plays.

"Gortat is a good player, I think he's able to finish with both hands, so it becomes a factor. They've also been playing with each other for a while, that chemistry you can see on the court as Wall is going to the basket, Gortat knows when to stop rolling or start rolling... We're building that chemistry too here for the Timberwolves, so when we have that type of chemistry we can do special things too.” 

You know you had a good night when a player as talented as Towns admits he saw something to strive for.

[RELATED: 5 must-see moments from Wizards' win over Timberwolves]

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How drawing up a play in the interview process helped sell the Wizards on Troy Brown

How drawing up a play in the interview process helped sell the Wizards on Troy Brown

While meeting with Oregon's Troy Brown during the pre-draft interview process, evaluators from the Washington Wizards issued him an on-the-spot challenge. Head coach Scott Brooks pulled out a dry-erase clipboard and a pen. He wanted to see Brown draw up a play.

This is a test Brooks has administered before to other players. Some have failed miserably.

"It sounds easy to throw a board at somebody in front of a big group and say 'okay draw a play' and I have seen many plays drawn, and I have seen it where there are not five players on the floor," Brooks said.

That wasn't the case with Brown. He didn't just draw up one play, he drew up several. One in particular came to mind when asked by reporters on Thursday night soon after the Wizards took him 15th overall in the first round of the NBA Draft.

“I think it was a situation where we were down by two or something like that," he said. "It was like a back screen into a slip, and then the fade three and they gave you a lot of various options to cause mismatches on the court for a last minute shot to either go ahead, or even attack the basket for a layup to go into overtime.”

NBC Sports Washington analyst Cory Alexander, a veteran of seven NBA seasons, demonstrated what Brown's play looked like on a whiteboard:

The Xs and Os of basketball flow effortlessly for Brown and Wizards' brass couldn't help but be impressed.

"He really understands the game. I think for a kid that is 18 years old, that is rare but he just has a good feel," Brooks said. 

"We were impressed with his character and the type of person he is and his basketball knowledge," team president Ernie Grunfeld said. "Obviously, like any young player, he has a lot of work to do but he has a lot of the intangibles that I think you need in today's game."

Smarts are a big part of what makes Brown a good basketball player. He isn't a particularly explosive athlete, with a modest 33-inch max vertical leap, but he boasts a 6-foot-10 wingspan and solid agility. Being in the right place at the right time and knowing how to operate an offense help him make the most of his natural abilities.

Passing is where his basketball IQ comes in handy. Brown is unusually good at distributing for a 6-foot-7 small forward. He averaged 3.2 assists as a freshman at Oregon and nine times had five assists or more in a game.

He can pass like a point guard and the Wizards are excited to implement that skill into their offense.

"Passing is contagious. We’ve been pretty good the last two years and with talking about that how we even want to take another step," Brooks said. "He has the ability to make a lot of quick plays and his ball handling is pretty good for a guy his size. That is one thing I was impressed in his workout last week or when we had him. He is able to take the contact and use his strong frame to get inside the key and make plays.”


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Wizards Tipoff podcast: Breaking down the Wizards' 2018 draft class


Wizards Tipoff podcast: Breaking down the Wizards' 2018 draft class

On the latest episode of the Wizards Tipoff podcast presented by Greenberg and Bederman, Chase Hughes and Chris Miller analyze the Wizards' two picks the night of the draft.

They went in-depth on first round pick Troy Brown, Jr. and why the Wizards took him when some big names were still on the board. They also broke down why the Wizards chose to pick a draft-and-stash guy in the second round.

You can listen to the episode right here:

You can download the podcast on Apple Podcasts right here and on Google Play. If you like the show please tell your friends!