The helter-skelter nature of the Wizards' regular season boils down to the final 12 games. Marcin Gortat, who has six double-doubles in the last seven games and has played in the NBA Finals, is putting his team on the spot.
"We’re coming to the point where a lot of people are starting to understand what’s going on. This is the last stretch of games where we can really recognize if we’re a playoff team or if we’re not," said Gortat after Tuesday's practice. "We can’t keep repeating the same mistakes over and over. We've got to just eliminate them. We’ve had (70) games for that. We’re done. We’re not talking about we’re getting to know each other, we’re building the chemistry. No, we’ve all done with that. We have to start playing basketball at the highest level right now."
The Wizards (36-34) lost three of four games on a West coast road trip. They had a season-high 24 turnovers in Sunday's loss at the Denver Nuggets. They've lost five of eight going into Wednesday's game vs. the Phoenix Suns at Verizon Center (CSN, 7 p.m. ET). The Suns traded Gortat to the Wizards just a few days before the regular season began.
"We have a lack of experience. We just worry about things we’re not supposed to worry about as players. Each one of us got to step to the game ready to play. As a pro, you got to take pride and do what you got to do. … I don’t know what other teammates do, how they get ready for the game, basically I’m trying to come every day and play the best the basketball that I can," Gortat said. "I know how it is to be in the NBA Finals. I know how it tastes to be successful and I want to come back to that."
With the Orlando Magic as a backup to Dwight Howard, Gortat played in the Eastern Conference semifinals as a rookie in 2007-08, the NBA Finals in 2008-09 and the conference finals for 2009-10.
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"I've been on a team where the team was winning six, seven, eight, 10 games in a row. I've been on a team where the team was six, seven, eight 10 in a row losing games. I don’t think we learn. ... We have a young team with young leaders," Gortat said, though he didn't mention fourth-year point guard John Wall by name. "I don’t think they recognize that when you’re winning three, four games in a row, you've got to stay hungry, you've got to continue to play. You got to continue to carry that momentum.
"At some point when you lose it, it’s not really easy to get it back, to build another two-, three-, four-(game) winning streak. If you already have that, you're automatically gaining respect from the referees, respect from a lot of teams and you’ve got to use that. I don’t think we’ve learned that. I don’t think we’ve been in that situation before so there’s a lot of guys that don’t know."