Key Legislature: Wizards 83 vs Pelicans 80 — Gortat Matches Davis in Hairy Win | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Key Legislature: Wizards 83 vs Pelicans 80 — Gortat Matches Davis in Hairy Win

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Updated: December 1, 2014

Truth About It.net’s Key Legislature: a quick run-down and the game’s defining moment(s) for Washington Wizards contest No. 15 versus the New Orleans in the District of Columbia, via Kyle Weidie (@Truth_About_It) from his apartment in Columbia Heights.

DC Council Key Legislature

by Kyle Weidie.

Sometimes it’s not about taming the single-browed beast, but it’s about matching him hair for hair, mohawk for unibrow. Marcin Gortat, just like the Wizards, bounced back after a two-game losing streak by standing toe-to-toe with an MVP-discussion candidate on Saturday night in Washington’s 83-80 win over New Orleans.

The Pelicans started the second half down four points, 36-40, and hung around within four points for much of the third quarter. Anthony Davis was carrying his team—flying, dunking, making jump shots. For his seventh and eighth points of the period, Davis (who had 21 after three quarters) set a screen and lurched a long step behind the left elbow as he caught a well-timed pass. Gortat put a hand up and gave chase, but, come on, Davis’ jumper fell.

It didn’t send the Machine to a squeaking halt, however. Gortat, already with four points, two steals, a block, and an assist in the third quarter, kept grinding. Bradley Beal relented the ball to the center on the left post wing—face up, dribble middle, spin-drop-step, and left-handed hook shot over Davis. On Washington’s next possession Davis got lost on defense and Drew Gooden’s pass found Gortat with Tyreke Evans on him. The Machine cranked out an in-rhythm fading two-point jumper—a Marcin fave. Gortat then turned his attention to the defensive end, bothering an Evans layup attempt and then blocking and recovering another from the Pelican. To cap his 10-point third quarter, and help the Wizards keep a six-point lead heading into the fourth quarter, Gortat caught the ball on the left block off a cross screen, this time closer to the basket. He waited for traffic to clear, then moved quickly toward the middle of the paint and dropped a right-handed hook shot over Davis.

Davis got his, scoring 30 points and grabbing 13 rebounds in 40 minutes. Gortat countered with 24 points and 13 rebounds in 41 minutes. Marchin’ Marcin tallied 24 points and 13 rebounds total over the previous two games (55 minutes). Gortat added four blocks shots and two assists against New Orleans; Davis didn’t contribute in either column of the box score. Despite his shot-blocking prowess, Davis is clearly not yet a refined rim protector. According the SVU player tracking data from NBA.com, Davis only defended one shot attempt at the rim on Saturday and the Wizards made it. Gortat defended 18 shots at the rim and the Pelicans made just seven (38.9%).

With Omer Asik starting at center alongside Davis, Gortat and Davis often didn’t guard each other. Instead, Kris Humphries checked Davis to start the game. Humphries concentrated on being physical, grabbing 11 of 16 rebound chances in his 26 minutes (for reference: Gortat grabbed 13 boards in 22 chances, Davis grabbed 13 in 23 chances*). Humphries also repelled a Davis highlight-reel dunk attempt with a hard, yet controlled shove to the chest, letting him know that things weren’t going to be easy. The Wizards need an enforcer and why not Humphries? Kris hitting 3-for-6 from the field including a deft breakaway dunk is a huge bonus.

[* A ‘chance’ is defined by that player being within 3.5 feet of a rebound, via NBA.com.]

Ten of Gortat’s 24 points came in the first quarter (and 10 of his points came in the third). Four of Gortat’s opening buckets came on assists from four different teammates—Beal, John Wall, Paul Pierce, and Rasual Butler. The first from Beal more a result of the Wizards taking what the defense gave them: Gortat cutting across the lane for a quick 15-foot jumper. The next two assists were more important for raising the confidence of Washington’s rim protector. Gortat took up space in the paint for a Wall drive but Wall stepped back and measured the scene as New Orleans clogged the lane. When spacing opened up as the Pelicans realigned defensively, Wall dropped the ball to his center for the lay-up (point guard craftsmanship that should melt even the coldest of Cowherd hearts). Barely 30 seconds later, Pierce showed how much he values the paint process with a wing post-up, face up, drive left, and drop-off to his Polish pal. Wall leads all Wizards with assists on 23 of Gortat’s 88 field goals this season, Pierce comes in second with 15.

Gortat’s previous games against Atlanta and Cleveland probably had him hypnotized by white walls, but he never lost his desire to operate close to the rim in either game. Getting him going early in contests this year (and more often last year) is part necessity without Nene. But it’s also a way to build Gortat’s confidence and reward his persistence.

For his part, Gortat must be more consistently tough. On defense, he and the guards need to find better balance so they do not always leave the big man on an island with bad angles and risk-taking, while the big man needs to not get caught under the rim when it’s time to help. Against New Orleans, Wall barked at Gortat after seemingly wanting assistance versus Davis on one possession. Communication beforehand would have help. On offense, Gortat could always stand to finish more bunnies at the rim—although, amongst 44 NBA players who have attempted 75 or more shots within five feet this season, Gortat’s 68.3 percent shooting ranks sixth-best. Gortat and Wall continue to feel each other out on both ends of the floor. On one key possession late in the fourth quarter, Gortat attempted to post up but had to kick the ball back to Wall. With Wall caught in the corner, Gortat tried to create a lane for him to drive, but Wall instead settled for firing a missed pull-up jumper off the dribble with Luke Babbitt guarding him.

Gortat is not a white wall and the Wizards know that they should not treat him like one. A $60 million big man who can match efforts with Anthony Davis is a luxury which can’t be ignored. Against New Orleans the investment paid off just enough for Washington to squeak past by the hair on their chins and not look back. Win and move on.

[Stats curated from Basketball-Reference.com and NBA.com/stats.]

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Kyle Weidie
Founder / Editor / Reporter / Writer at TAI
Kyle founded TAI in 2007 and has been weaving in and out the world of Wizards ever since, ducking WittmanFaces, jumping over G-Wiz, and avoiding stints on the DNP-Conditioning list. He has covered the Washington pro basketball team as a member of the media since 2009. Kyle lives in D.C. with his wife, loves basketball, and has no pets.