The tone of Paul George's comments about Marcin Gortat is a bit sarcastic, but what the Wizards' center did to help shut down the Indiana Pacers' best player shouldn't be minimized. Trevor Ariza did the grunt work to make everything difficult on the perimeter, and Gortat rotated when he drove into the lane, using his length and strength to keep George from finishing at the rim.
"Marcin Gortat is probably defensive player of the year it seems," said George after he shot 6-for-22 for 19 points and five turnovers in Friday's 91-78 loss. "You could not get anything. He was just excellent at the rim for whatever reason.”
Gortat only had three fouls and didn't go for the shot block most of the time, though he had two for the game. He went vertical. And while helping on George, Gortat held Roy Hibbert to eight points and just two rebounds.
"I took this seriously, this challenge against Roy Hibbert," said Gortat, who had 17 points and 12 rebounds. "A lot of people say he's defensive player of the year and I just want to see how I play against the defensive player of the year."
The defensive effort to contain George became contagious as the Wizards (37-35) again started to look the the team that finished top 10 in scoring defense last season. When they lost to the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday, they looked nothing like this, especially Gortat. They have to bring this rediscovered identity into Saturday's game vs. the Atlanta Hawks (CSN, 8 p.m. ET).
“You’ve got to credit Trev because he’s guarding him the majority of the game and he did a tremendous job, him and Martell (Webster). And I guarded him for a few possessions, but you definitely got to credit the bigs because they definitely stepped up," said Bradley Beal. "They did a great job with going vertical and making it difficult for them. They were looking to draw fouls but I think our guys did a great job of just playing through it and contesting shots and us guards, we did a great job of coming back to the ball and rebounding.”