The turnaround that has happened with the Wizards this month began 25 days ago.
In the first half of their game at the five-win Brooklyn Nets, they allowed 66 points. Marcin Gortat had difficulty putting the clamps on Brook Lopez.
In fairness, most traditional centers have had issues with Lopez who seemed the least likely among NBA bigs to develop and play so much at the three-point arc. He has taken as many as 11 a game this season and is shooting 38%.
"The first half we started terrible," said Gortat.
"They came out and started shooting three on us, a lot of hustle plays, rebounds and basically I think we didn't give them respect. We're not in position to come out just completely free like that and just think we're going to show up and we're going to win."
A victory on Friday night against the Nets puts the Wizards at 16-16. They've never been at .500 this season.
For Gortat, defending Lopez in space will be the biggest challenge. He's not just a catch-and-shoot big who is easy to close out. He can put the ball on the floor and finish at the rim. His body control and soft touch allows him to drop in floaters, too.
"He defnitely change his game. He's running around the three-point line shooting threes which is crazy to me because with his set of skills I thought he was going to be an inside player for most of his career," Lopez said. "I definitely have to do a better job taking this competition really serious.
Gortat's defense has been an underrated part of the Wizards' recent resurgence. He's defending well 1-on-1 and rotates properly on help when the ball gets into the lane. He's having to do that double duty more often at times, but he's still averaging 11.2 points and 11.7 rebounds.
DeMarcus Cousins dropped 36 points on the Wizards who allowed Gortat to defend him on the arc, but it took the Kings center 34 shots in a loss. Myles Turner hurt the Wizards in their first game vs. the Indiana Pacers, but Gortat played better against the three-point shooting center when they won the rematch earlier this week.
Lopez is stronger than Turner and more efficient than Cousins.
"He really hurt us in the first quarter. I let him do too many things. He not only scored threes but he had some post moves, some crazy and-1s that kind of pissed me off," Gortat said. "I just can't let him do that. I'm a much better defender than I showed in the game against Brooklyn."