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Morning tip: Soreness lingers for Marcin Gortat after rough week


Morning tip: Soreness lingers for Marcin Gortat after rough week

The past week hasn't been easy for Marcin Gortat, who had been called out by his coach for being "soft" and it left him feeling sore. Saturday, it started to look like another bad outing before things turned and the Wizards got a 108-99 win at Verizon Center, ending a three-game losing streak. He still seems bothered, but only a little. 

"It was actually a good week," said Gortat, who finished with his second double-double of the season with 13 points and 10 rebounds against the Orlando Magic. "My check came in."

Gortat is in the second year of a five-year deal that pays him $60 million. He'd only grabbed one defensive rebound in a 24-point loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder and it drew coach Randy Wittman's rage. Gortat fired back on Friday and made it clear he didn't like being called out. 

"We won the game," said Gortat, who had trouble defending Nik Vucevic as he had 10 points in the first quarter alone for Orlando. "I'm still not there where I want to be. Missed a lot of shots, easy putbacks."

Gortat's saving grace was that he was able to get to the foul line six times in the first half to steady himself. Nene came in off the bench to battle Vucevic for position in the low post which slowed him down. He shot 3-for-11 for the last three quarters.

"We are more aggressive defensively. We're actually going through screens harder than usual. Hopefully we're going to maintain that," Gortat said. "John (Wall) played better today also, pushing transition. We looked good. Kristopher (Humphries) was outstanding raining those threes."

Humphries had a career-high five three-pointers en route to a season-high 23 points.

In the fourth quarter, Gortat's activity paid off. He made a foul shot to complete a three-point play that trimmed the Wizards' deficit to 90-89. He blocked a shot by Elfrid Payton, who he was defending on a switch. The 6-11 center then ran the floor and was able to tip in a missed layup by Garrett Temple for a 94-90 lead. A tap out of a missed shot by Otto Porter produced a second-chance shot for Wall whose jumper extended their lead to 101-94.

"It opens up a lot," Gortat said of Humphries' three-point shooting and the offense. "People are going to start finally opening up the paint for me. At some point they're going to realize it's better to give up two than three. That's going to be great but Kris got to continue to shoot like that."

Ultimately, when the Wizards play like this and don't just rely on Wall and Bradley Beal, who missed his second game in a row with a left shoulder contusion, they will be better off. Temple had 18 points. Wall had 15 points and 11 assists, Porter nine points and 10 rebounds and the bench contributed 30 points and 18 rebounds.  The Wizards had consecutive losses last weekend where they totaled 50 turnovers. In this one, they had just 11. 

"They're franchise players. There's going to be a lot of pressure on them. There's going to be a lot of responsibility on them. They're going to get open shots. They're going to get a lot of looks," said Gortat, referencing Wall and Beal who'd been the closers in fourth quarters. "They're going to take their shots but at the end of the day, especially for John, he's got to make sure he's going to create for everybody and get everybody involved. We got to move the ball. We got to hit the guy who's open. We got games, we got stretches where we playing the right way. We got games where people trying to do it on their own. You're not going to win a game like that in the NBA."

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Toronto Raptors star Kawhi Leonard out against Wizards

Toronto Raptors star Kawhi Leonard out against Wizards

The Wizards will catch a break on Saturday night when they host the Toronto Raptors in the second game of their regular season, as Raptors superstar Kawhi Leonard is being held out due to rest.

Leonard, who has been dominant so far for the 2-0 Raptors, is being limited in back-to-backs after he missed 73 games last season due to a quadriceps injury. The Raptors played the night before against the Celtics.

With Leonard out, the Raptors will likely rely on C.J. Miles and O.G. Anunoby at the small forward position. Shooting guard Delon Wright is also out with a shoulder injury.

Though Leonard and Wright are out of the mix, Toronto still has plenty of talent including All-Star point guard Kyle Lowry. Lowry is averaging 21 points, seven assists and 3.5 rebounds through two games. 

Serge Ibaka has been their third-leading scorer with 15 points per game to go along with 6.5 rebounds. They also acquired Danny Green in the Leonard deal and he's off to a strong start with 12.5 points and five rebounds per game.

Leonard's absence may be noticed more on the defensive end, as he is one of the best in the NBA on the perimeter. That could make things a bit easier for Bradley Beal and Otto Porter Jr.

The Wizards and Raptors next play on Nov. 23. That game is in Toronto.



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Three things to watch for in Wizards' first matchup with Raptors

Three things to watch for in Wizards' first matchup with Raptors

John Wall, Bradley Beal and Otto Porter Jr. and the Washington Wizards battle Kawhi Leonard, Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka and the Toronto Raptors on Saturday night. Tipoff is at 7 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington.

Here are three things to watch...

Will Howard play?

Once again, we await word from head coach Scott Brooks on the status of Dwight Howard. Howard, who missed all of the Wizards' preseason with a piriformis injury, was a gametime decision for the opener on Thursday. He ended up not playing, but appeared very close to finally making his debut.

Saturday night could be a different story, though we won't know until shortly before gametime. The Wizards' training staff will evaluate him pregame and make the call. If he can't go, Ian Mahinmi will get the nod as starter like he did against Miami.

Need more Otto

Though it wasn't the reason why the Wizards lost to the Heat, it certainly stood out in the box score how Otto Porter Jr. went without a three-point attempt in the opener. Porter finished third in three-point percentage last season with a 44.1 clip. He simply has to be more involved in the offense.

It will be interesting to see what adjustment the Wizards make to create more opportunities for Porter, and how Porter responds. All parties involved insist it is a mix of several factors, including a need for Porter to simply be more aggressive. That won't be easy against a tough Raptors defense, but expect Porter to get up plenty of threes in this one.

Leonard is out

This game was set to be the first matchup between the Wizards and the revamped Raptors, who added perennial All-NBA selection Kawhi Leonard in the biggest trade of the offseason. But it turns out, Leonard will not play.

Toronto is resting Leonard, who played in only nine games all of last season due to a quadriceps injury. It's understandable, given the Raptors played the night before against the tough Boston Celtics.

With Leonard out, All-Star point guard Kyle Lowry will be a big focus. They also got guard Danny Green in the Leonard deal and he's off to an excellent start. He's averaging 12.5 points, 5.0 rebounds, 1.5 blocks and 1.5 steals while shooting 50 percent from three so far. Getting him in the trade was a very underrated move by Toronto.