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An unsung player in the Wizards' three-game winning streak is Marcin Gortat, who has yet to regain his groove on the offensive end. Gortat is 14-for-34 shooting and has been to the foul line just six times in that span, but he is setting screens to free the shooters.
It's a lost art that a lot of big men don't do as well as they used to, and it is one of the reasons Kendrick Perkins is valuable to the Oklahoma City Thunder though the center comes at a high price tag. When the defense loads up on Kevin Durant or Russell Westbrook, it becomes Perkins' job to help create space for them. It's not about his stat line.
While more is expected of Gortat because he's offensively more capable and a threat to hit the mid-range jumper, he has had consecutive double-doubles with 11 and 10 rebounds. He also helped Bradley Beal get open for three-point looks and in position to win their fourth game in a row Friday at the Minnesota Timberwolves (CSN+, 8 p.m. ET).
When Beal buried two shots from long range to bring back the Wizards (12-13) to beat the New York Knicks 102-101 at Madison Square Garden to start this streak, it was Gortat who set him free.
"I give a lot of credit to March. He screens his butt off," Beal said of Gortat, who is 6-11 and 240 pounds. "He makes life easier for you. He gets you open when you need to."
Gortat set a high screen on J.R. Smith that allowed Beal to get a wide-open look to cut the deficit to 98-97 with two minutes left. Then Gortat set another high screen on Beno Udrih that allowed Beal, with seven seconds left on the shot clock, to come open to drain another three to tie the score at 100 with 45 seconds left. Beal rejected Gortat's screen on the final play -- the Knicks were expecting him to take it so they could trap the ball over the top -- and got past Udrih to the rim for the winning bucket.
"When he tells you to shoot the ball, you better shoot the ball," Beal said. "You have to love a big like that that's willing to get guys open, willing to do all the little things for the team to help us win."