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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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Wizards 2018-19 end of season grades: Bradley Beal

Wizards 2018-19 end of season grades: Bradley Beal

Now that the dust has settled for the 2018-19 Wizards season, it's time to review the roster and hand out individual grades...

Who: Bradley Beal, shooting guard

2018-19 stats: 36.9 mpg, 25.6 ppg, 5.5 apg, 5.0 rpg, 1.5 spg, 0.7 bpg, 2.7 tov, 47.5 FG%, 35.1 3P% (2.5/7.3), 54.0 eFG%, 80.8 FT% (4.4/5.5), 113 ortg, 114 drtg

Best game: 1/13 vs. Raptors - 43 points, 15 assists, 10 rebounds, three steals, two blocks, 6-12 3PT

Grade: A+

Season review: One could argue that nobody deserves a higher grade in the Wizards organization for their 2018-19 season than Bradley Beal, who had by far the best individual year of any player on the team. He had high expectations coming into the season and exceeded them, taking the next step from an All-Star to a legitimate All-NBA candidate.

Beal also continued to represent the organization well in public. He spoke for the team after many difficult losses with poise and maturity. And he brought positive attention to the franchise for his charitable efforts, recently being named as a finalist for the league's community assist award.

Beal's on-court performance was a shining light amid a disastrous season overall for the team. He set career-highs in scoring, rebounds, assists, steals and free throw attempts. He played in all 82 games for the second straight season and never complained despite leading the NBA in minutes.

The most impressive part of Beal's season may be how he responded when John Wall went down due to injury. Wall last played on Dec. 26 and in the next 47 games, Beal averaged 27.2 points, 6.0 assists, 5.1 rebounds and 1.8 steals. 

Beal's final numbers put him in elite company. He became the first 25-5-5 player in Wizards/Bullets franchise history. He was one of only six players to reach that mark this season, a list that includes Giannis Antetokounmpo, LeBron James, James Harden, Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry.

Even as the season was winding down and the Wizards were well out of playoff contention, Beal gave an honest and consistent effort. That stood out in a year in which some of his teammates did not play hard and were called out by head coach Scott Brooks and team leaders for doing so. 

Now Beal, of course, had many reasons to keep giving 100 percent. With the numbers he has put up, he could make All-NBA in late May and, if he does, will qualify for a supermax contract. That could mean tens of millions more on his next deal, if he chooses to sign back with the Wizards.

As Beal looks ahead to this summer and next season, another question is how much better he can become. He took a significant step from the All-Star year he had in 2017-18. What if he makes another, similar leap?

Beal upped his scoring average by three points year-over-year. Another jump like that could put him in the MVP conversation, depending on how the Wizards finish in the standings.

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Why (and how) your NBA Cares Community Assist Award vote should go to Bradley Beal

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Why (and how) your NBA Cares Community Assist Award vote should go to Bradley Beal

Voting has officially begun for the season-long NBA Community Assist Award, and Wizards All-Star guard Bradley Beal is a finalist. 

Chosen by fans and an NBA executive panel, the award honors a player’s strong commitment to positively impacting his community through sustained efforts over the course of the season.

In December, Beal visited Ron Brown College Preparatory High school in D.C. to give away two pairs of shoes to every member of the JV and varsity basketball teams.

It didn't stop there. Beal took his role as a mentor to the next level by checking in with the kids multiple times a month to make sure they are on the right track in both athletics and their academic studies.

Later on in February, Beal invited 10 students from RBHS on a private tour of the National African-American History and Culture Museum.

The seven-year NBA veteran also made a point to donate game tickets to community groups and toys to the Salvation Army during the holiday season. 

Here's some key information about the voting process: 

  1. Voting begins: Wednesday, April 24th at 12:01 p.m.
  2. Voting ends: Sunday, May 5th at 11:59 p.m.
  3. How does voting work? Through the above date range, every tweet posted using both of the hashtags #BradleyBeal and #NBACommunityAssist counts as one vote.
  4. Retweets of tweets using the above hashtags also count as one vote

This all comes following another All-Star season that saw the 25-year-old finish with career-highs in points (25.6), rebounds (5.0), and assists (5.5). He played in all 82 regular-season games. 

The winning player will receive $25,000 to their charity of choice, a donation from the NBA and Kaiser Permanente.

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