The difference that Markieff Morris makes for the Wizards, despite a record that suggests it's not big enough, can be seen in how he handled Kristaps Porzingis in the 119-112 win over the New York Knicks. He unnerved him just as he did Paul Millsap in their first win of the season over the Atlanta Hawks.
The Wizards (3-8) don't have any issues defending stretch fours anymore because of Morris. Regardless of what his stat line read -- eight points on 4-for-11 shooting and eight rebounds against New York -- he's a much better option than Kris Humphries or Jared Dudley from year ago.
"We needed this win bad so we came out and played like we needed it," Morris said. "Just be physical. Take it personal. Every time I step on the court, I'm taking it personal. I'm just not going to let guys go out there and do what they want to do agaisnt me. We needed this win bad and we got it."
At 6-10, Morris has enough size to defend the position under the basket against more physical fours and agile enough to step away from the rim on smaller ones. He also can flash the occasional three-point shot to spread out the opponents' defense.
Millsap had been a thorn in the Wizards' side for years, but Morris held him to 5-for-14 shooting when they won for the first time. Porzingis had scored 35 points the previous night for the Knicks, but that wasn't happening.
Morris prevented Porzingis from getting the ball where he wanted, fighting him off the block for position and turning to his right shoulder.
"I'm just playing the scouting report," Morris said. "He's a great player. He has a lot of different dimensions in his game. Quite hoenstly I'm just taking it personal. It's not going to be an easy matchup (for him)."
The Wizards dealt a first-round draft pick in 2016 to the Phoenix Suns for Morris, and it has been one well-spent. They went from being at the bottom of the table in rebounding last season when they were 41-41 to sixth. With Morris entrenched all of this season, the Wizards are no longer getting pounded inside.
"Point-blank, period, guarding Millsap, guarding those guys, he can guard one-on-one without us having to white (double team), leaving wide-open shooters," point guard John Wall said of Morris' value that doesn't always register in a boxscore. "He does a great job of just being physical with guys. When he's not getting in foul trouble he does a great job of staying between them and the basket."
When the Wizards went south in Philadelphia, a 109-102 loss to the league's worst team Wednesdady, Morris picked up two fouls in the first 54 seconds. When they made a run from 24 down, it was with Morris stretching to the three-point line to spark the comeback that fell short.
The one player in the locker room who keeps a constant edge and doesn't hide it, Morris wasn't pleased with how the game ended. The Knicks scored 47 points in the fourth quarter to give themselves a chance in a game they trailed by as much as 27.
"We gave up 47 in the fourth? That's unacceptable," Morris said. "We're a lot better than that."