The pressure doesn't lessen for Marcin Gortat. The Wizards' center, a traditional big man accustomed to playing in the paint, has had to defend on the perimeter more than ever this season by stepping out to the three-point arc vs. DeMarcus Cousins, Myles Turner, Brook Lopez, Dirk Nowitzki and likely will chase Karl-Anthony Towns of the Minnestoa Timberwolves on Friday.
"He’s been able to get some practice with that, even last game guarding Dirk," said Wizards coach Scott Brooks of the 113-105 loss at the Dallas Mavericks earlier in week. "They have two guys that can stretch you out. Gorgui (Dieng) doesn’t shoot threes as much as Towns but you have to be ready for it. It’s hard. It’s an adjustment he’s going to have to continue to work on. The league is going that way. Every team has (big) guys that can shoot.”
Cousins scored 36 points but it took 34 shots in a loss for the Sacramento Kings. Surprisingly, the Wizards didn't trap the ball or offer a lot of help. Gortat did the job. Turner dropped 20 points but only made one three in a win and was held to 15 points and no threes in a loss. Lopez lit it up in their first meeting with 25 points but Gortat responded in the rematch by holding him to 11 points.
Towns is averaging a double-double in just his second season at 21.6 points, 11.6 rebounds and 2.9 assists for Minnesota (11-24).
"In terms of his skill he’s like Boogie," said Wizards shooting guard Bradley Beal, referring to Cousins, who also went to Kentucky before Towns. "He likes to step out put the ball on the floor, he plays hard, plays aggressive, has a great post game. Has a good motor. He’s going to be tough. ... With a guy like that we’d rather him shoot those jumpers than be inside. He’s a huge piece to being around the basket, finishing, grabbing rebounds, so hopefully we can contest his jumpers and he’ll (feel) comfortable out there.”
In the only meeting in D.C. last season, the Timberwolves went to double overtime to win 132-129 amid some mild controversy. The last two-minute report released by the NBA revealed a lot of missed calls, including in the extra periods, and most went against Washington.
Towns had 27 points, 10 rebounds and five assists. Dieng, who had 18 points, nine rebounds and five assists, drained the final shot of regulation to force the first overtime.
Towns has had 30 points or more four times. His set his career-high with 47 and also had 41. He has had 15 or more rebounds nine times. He's just a 31% shooter from three but he can't be left alone as he evolves from distance.
"I feel like he's more dangerous on the perimeter," said Wizards point guard John Wall. "He's able to shoot the ball. He's able to put the ball on the floor. He's able to find his teammates."