Wake-up call: Shutting down Jefferson awakens Gortat

Wake-up call: Shutting down Jefferson awakens Gortat
January 8, 2014, 8:15 am
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Gortat: Focused on defending Jefferson

(Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports)

CHARLOTTE -- The smile is back on Marcin Gortat's face, meaning he has ended his six-game slump against the Charlotte Bobcats and enjoyed the scent of Al Jefferson's blood. Not literally, of course. Figuratively.  And the Wizards ended a three-game losing streak. 

"It's more fun stopping him. When you play good defense for two or three seconds, he doesn't want to get anymore and I want to punch him even more," said Gortat after getting 18 points, 13 rebounds and three blocked shots -- his first double-double in eight games -- and holding Jefferson to six points. "It's more fun. When you feel blood, when you smell blood, you're doing a good job, you want to hit people even more. That's how I felt out there."

Yes, Gortat did it all Tuesday at both ends of the floor. For once, his bad offensive start didn't negatively impact his defense. He started 3-for-9 in the first half but made his next four shots to finish 7-for-13.

He forced Jefferson into a difficult, fallaway, one-handed shot, missed an open jumper himself but then got the steal, blocked Jefferson at the rim and collected the loose ball and forced Jefferson into an airball. That was just in the first quarter. Jefferson averages 17 points and 10.1 rebounds per game. 

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"When you're involved in the game the way you have to be guarding a guy like Jefferson at the other end, you feed off that, especially if you're having good success with it," said Wizards coach Randy Wittman, who benched Gortat in the third quarter for his lackluster play Sunday vs. the Golden State Warriors. "It makes you feel good at the other end."

John Wall only shot 5-for-16 but he had 17 points, eight assists and no turnovers. He's not been quite in sync with Gortat, but this may be a step in the right direction.

"We know it's tough for him trying to find a new role because he's used to posting up a lot, but in this system it's a lot of pick-and-rolls and pick-and-pops and not too many post-ups," Wall said. "He's finding a way to feel comfortable and make his shots. It's frustrating when you're not making those easy shots that you're used to making because you get down on yourself."

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