Gooden more than good on the boards for Wizards

Gooden more than good on the boards for Wizards
May 14, 2014, 4:45 pm
Share This Post

As far as the big men go, Marcin Gortat deserved the headliner treatment following the Wizards' Game 5 rout over the Pacers. As far as rebounding goes, someone other than Washington's starting center was the best of the boarding bunch.

That someone, Drew Gooden. Now, Gortat had the most rebounds with 16 -- not to mention a team-high 31 points. He did all that work in 36 minutes, meaning one rebound every 2.25 minutes. Tremendous rate, without question. NBA rebounding leader Dwight Howard averaged a board every 2.8 minutes over the course of the season.

Gooden had nine rebounds in 17 minutes for a rate of a rebound every 1.89 minutes. Whoa.

The nine rebounds, as many total rebounds as Indiana starters Paul George, David West, Roy Hibbert and Lance Stephenson had in 124 combined.

"Even though he didn’t score, he had nine rebounds in [17] minutes and that’s big for us," Wizards coach Randy Wittman said on a conference call with reporters on Wednesday less than 24 hours after his squad outrebounded the Pacers 62-23 in a 102-79 victory.Washington still trails the series 3-2 with Game 6 at the Verizon Center on Thursday.

"We’ve won the rebounding battle four of the five games and we have to continue that," Wittman said.

Gooden, signed a free agent by Washington following the NBA trade deadline, only had three rebounds in the five-game, first-round series with the Bulls. That's because other than Game 4 of that series - the Nene suspension game - he essentially didn't play. Faced against the athletic interior tandem of Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson, Wittman used Trevor Booker as the first big man off the bench and as starter when Nene missed Game 4 that series due to suspension.

Though in many ways the Pacers present a similar large defensive challenge to the Bulls, the individual pieces are in different. Roy Hibbert is a 7-foot-2 tower, but not a mobile one. David West is far more power than finesse.

Therefore, starting with Game 1, Wittman has countered with more size in his rotation. That's where the 6-foot-10, 250-pound Gooden fits in over the athletic Booker, who is listed at 6-foot-8. In this series, Gooden has grabbed 36 rebounds in 95 minutes over five games against Indiana. Meanwhile, Hibbert has 25 rebounds in 145 minutes while Nene has 21 rebounds in 150 minutes.

"He’s been good," Wittman said of Gooden.  "Each series kind of changes. The Chicago series, Drew was not in the rotation very much. This series, after he came in in Game 1 and provided 12 points and 13 rebounds. ...with their big front line, it was imperative for us to win the rebound battle."

Talk about your per minute production; Gooden's Game 1 totals came in just 18 minutes of action.

For the Wizards, winning the rebounding battle in Game 5 meant controlling tempo. Teams can't run without the ball, obviously, and the Wizards ran effectively on Tuesday. Gooden's been good in this realm.

Wittman: "One thing I know [Drew is] going to do when he’s in there is battle for rebounds. We’ve been going with him in the rotation here because for us in this series rebounding is a big part of our success."

It's still somewhat hard to believe that Gooden, who was unemployed less than three months ago, has been such a big part of the Wizards success. What's clear is the veteran forward can be rebounding factor no matter the minutes.

[RELATED: Gortat, Wall lead Wizards to bounce back victory]