INDIANAPOLIS -- Marcin Gortat had every right to talk about himself after his performance in Game 5 for the Wizards. He was the most dominant big man on the floor in the 23-point win vs. the Indiana Pacers, but he ended his chat at his postgame conference talking in-depth about his embattled point guard. Probably never in John Wall's career has he ever gotten this strong of an endorsement from a teammate.
Wall got the Wizards out to a good pace as Gortat did most of the scoring with 31 points and 16 rebounds. In the second half it was Wall to close out the Pacers as he finished with 27 points to trim the series to 3-2 going into Thursday's game at Verizon Center (ESPN, 8 p.m. ET).
Gortat walked us through what happened during the past few days when Wall was in a bad place after the Wizards blew a 19-point lead to lose Game 4 at home:
"John was different from a preparation standpoint for the first time in a 102, 103 games that we've had this season. I saw a guy that didn't want to talk to anybody. He was closed. He didn't want to interact with anybody. He didn't rap before the game. He didn't laugh before the game. I guess just a lot of things around basketball that have influence on him. A lot of people probably talk crap about him. A lot of people probably disappointed the way we played Game 3 and 4 but at the end of the day I'm with him. I'll jump in a fire behind this guy. He plays good or bad, I'm going to have his back. That's what I told him before the game.
"It was hard to get his attention because everybody tried to tell him he's going to have a great game. So when the 25th person approaches you, it was me and he was like, 'I don't want to hear this.' I was like, 'No, John. There's one thing I want to tell you. I'm with you. It doesn't matter which way it's going to go, I'm with you. I support you.'
"You can't put pressure on a guy who for the first time in his life and he's 23, 24 years old. We can't put pressure on him like that. You just can't blame the kid every time the team loses. We blame him. I understand he's a leader. I understand he's the head of the snake but there's another 12 guys on the team. There's another six, seven coaches of this team. You can't blame one guy for that. I understand the business. If he scores 30 and the team is winning everybody is going to be excited, everybody is going to tap his shoulder but when the team loses he's going to be blamed for everything. We can't do this kid like that.
"He wants to win. He's a fighter. He wants to win. He's a competitor. At the end of the day, it's not his fault. He came out and he played his game. And he played the game with me which was pretty cool."
Wall's $80 million contract extension kicks in starting next season, but as the point guard he has the ball 80% of the time. Getting the blame from external forces isn't going to change no matter what Gortat says, but how Wall and his teammates handle it internally will be all that matters.
And again, Gortat continues to talk like a player who, even though he's an unrestricted free agent after this season, expects -- and wants -- to re-sign.