Highlights: Wizards 134, Raptors 129 (3 OT)
Charles Barkley likes these Wizards. Heck, the noted straight-talking basketball analyst has gushed about Washington throughout the season, picking them as the third best team in the Eastern Conference. Barkley doubled down on that position overnight as the TNT broadcast led off its late, late might recap show discussing the Wizards-Raptors triple-overtime victory.
We also learned that the Round Mound of Rebound also digs the Polish Machine.
Marcin Gortat finished with a career-high 31 points and 12 rebounds before fouling out against the Raptors. That stellar effort was hardly a one-off situation. His lone 20-point, 10-rebound performances have in the last two games, both without Nene in the lineup. Gortat has ripped off six straight double-doubles with the Wizards winning the last five of those games. In that span he's averaging 18.8 points and 11.3 rebounds. On the season Gortat's averages are 12.7 and 9.0.
Barkley has certainly taken notice.
"When (Gortat) gets to scoring, he plays with a lot more energy," Barkley said. "When they have Nene, he's kind of like the fourth option and they don't use him enough. Like a lot of players in the NBA, if you get them going offensively, they play with a lot more energy. Not that they wanted the injury, but now (Gortat) just has to be more aggressive. He's going to get a lot more touches because he's the third best player on the team. This guy is a good player."
Once again Barkley made it clear he thinks the Wizards are a good team in the East. No, not at that Indiana and Miami level, but right there with the Raptors and Chicago Bulls and just a little better.
“Listen, I told you, I think the Wizards are gonna be the third-best team in the Eastern Conference,” Barkley said. “I’m a little concerned with the injury to Nene, but Gortat, if he keeps playing like that? On paper, just on paper — you don’t play games on paper — as far as having good offense at the guards position and defense and big guys, the Wizards have the most talent. Chicago’s great defensively but I don’t think they can score enough on a nightly basis.”
Fellow commentator Shaquille O'Neal then asked Barkley if he thought the Wizards, fifth in the East, would be behind the Bulls at this point in the season. Washington sits 1 1/2 games behind fourth place Chicago.
“I thought they’d be ahead of Chicago to be honest with you,” said Barkley, who then asked for Washington's overtime record. "They’re 3-6 [in overtime]. [John] Wall and [Bradley] Beal are so young, and they’re still trying to learn how to win. They should have five more wins. I talked to Ernie Grunfeld at the All-Star Game. He said thanks for the kind words you said about the Wizards. I said I like your team. John Wall has really grown and matured. Bradley Beal, I think he’s gonna be a great shooting guard. Nene, I like his game, he’s just got to stay healthy. I love Gortat."
The Chuckster continued.
“You know, listen, if you’ve got four really good players in the Eastern Conference - There’s nobody else, other than Miami and Indiana, that’s got four guys that good, to be honest with you.”