Well, that was fun!
In a do-or-die game, the Washington Wizards stepped up, beat the Indiana Pacers 102-79 and brought the series back to Washington.
As the Bee-Gees once said, “We’re stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive. Ah, ha, ha, ha, stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive. Ah, ha, ha, ha, stayin’ alive“.
The Wizards had a great all-around game and everyone contributed. John Wall finally made his three-pointers, Bradley Beal attacked the rim with no regard for human life and the Wizards suffocated Indiana on defense. However, the key to the victory was Marcin Gortat.
After a putrid performance in Game 4, Marcin Gortat was the most valuable players for the Wizards in Game 5. He finished with 31 points on 13 of 15 shooting from the field and was the best player on the court the entire game. Gortat really struggled at the rim earlier in this series. It seemed that he couldn’t buy a bucket but with his back against the wall, he stepped up.
Especially in the third quarter, Gortat played as well offensively as a post player can. He made a flurry of hook shots around the basket and picked up fouls on the Indiana big men. His ability to make passes out of double-teams also led to open shots or baskets around the rim for the rest of the Wizards. Even though his scoring was a big part of Washington’s victory, Gortat’s ability to rebound was the key to the game.
The Indiana Pacers, as a team, finished with 23 rebounds. Marcin Gortat, the Polish Hammer, finished with 16 rebounds and the Wizards had 62 in total. This mark of 62 rebounds in a single game is the 240th highest rebounding total for a team in NBA history, according to Basketball Reference. That’s not too shabby.
Furthermore, Gortat was not only a beast on the defensive boards but on the offensive glass as well. He had seven offensive rebounds which was three more than the entire Pacers squad. This ability to get the ball back led to more shot opportunities and more second-chance points.
His dominance on the defensive boards was mostly due to his outstanding positioning and defense throughout the game. This was the best defense that Gortat has played all season. He never reached in when Roy Hibbert was shooting but instead played straight up and made Hibbert tried to shoot over him. This repositioning by Indiana’s big man created problems and more turnovers. Also, after each perimeter shot, Gortat always found Hibbert or his assignment and boxed him out. This allowed for such a low number of offensive boards and gave the Wizards more fastbreak opportunities.
It’s amazing to see the turnaround by Gortat from Game 4 to Game 5. He played limited minutes in Game 4’s fourth quarter due to his inability to guard Hibbert and scoring lapses, yet was able to step up and save the day for Washington. Additionally, the stats back up his greatness in Game 5 as he finished with a +35 plus/minus.
Gortat gets less attention than the flashier and more athletic players such as Beal, Wall and even Nene to some extent, however he has been a big part to the Wizards’ success this season. In fact, after a dominant Game 5, Gortat may be the only reason that Washington is still alive in the NBA Playoffs.