Saturday, April 25, 2015

NBA’s “Polish Hammer” Keeps Hitting the Nail on the Head for Wizards

Admit it, fellow hoops junkie. When first you heard the term “gortat,” you imagined it was either an exotic French pastry or (if a person) some Prussian field marshal from the Ottoman Empire.

But it’s been nearly a decade now since Marcin “The Polish Hammer” Gortat became an NBA commodity – six years since he began to gain notice as a valuable back-up big man for an Orlando Magic squad built around Dwight Howard that reached the Finals. He has subsequently been packaged into two multi-player trades, first with a first-round draft choice, and then for one.

Not bad for a dude chosen fourth from last – and ironically right after the selection of current Raptor Amir Johnson (by Detroit) – in 2005 by Phoenix and immediately shipped off to the Magic for a bag of practice balls (actually for future considerations).

And last night Ivan Putski, er … I mean, Gortat dropped 17 points in the first half alone on a desperate Toronto team competing for its playoff life. No wonder Marcin’s current employer in our nation’s capital rewarded him with a multi-year, big dollar contract extension last year.

In Game 2, Raptor head man Dwane Casey seemed determined to play to and through big post Jonas Valanciunas. In his hour of need, though, he turned to his stud, DeMar DeRozen who responded with a 32-point effort (albeit on 29 shots). Johnson, starting for the first time in the series, responded with 14 points on six-for-seven shooting. But for the second time in this series, the Raps failed to make 40 percent of their field goal attempts.

Toronto forged ahead by a single point three times in the second half, for the final time with six minutes remaining. Appropriately, that advantage was soon erased when John Wall set up Gortat from point-blank range for the last of his 24 tallies. The Big Pole was on the receiving end of eight of the Wall’s game-high 15 assists.

It was left to Old Man Pierce to deliver the last rites of a 106-99 victory, notching eight of his 18 points in the game’s final two minutes, including a pair of three-point dagger (the first set by Gortat).

Having both enjoyed a sweet victory (over Chicago) and endured a bitter defeat (at the hands of a vulnerable pack of Pacers) a season ago, Washington played the first half of its schedule like a team on a mission, winning 69 percent of their games. An abysmal (5-14) third six-weeks raised doubts, significantly lowering their profile. But in the season’s final 42 days, the Wiz righted the ship to the tune of 12-9.

Hmm, 12-9? Not a Hall of Fame run, by any means…

But one that can getcha to the Finals.