Marcin Gortat says Wizards are sometimes ‘mentally weak’

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Depending on your perspective, the Washington Wizards either blew their game against Phoenix last night by falling behind by 25 points in the third quarter or showed resiliency by cutting the deficit to three points late.

Considering the Suns ultimately won, 99-93, you can guess how the Washington players interpreted the game.

Marcin Gortat, via J. Michael of CSN Washington:

“Embarrassing,” said Gortat, who clearly was choosing his words carefully. “Nobody expected we’re going to play like that. We just didn’t perform.”

Those comments led to this question from me, using Harrington’s Feb. 8 comments — said in a constructively critical fashion, mind you — as a springboard to whether Gortat believes that observation still holds true based on how the Wizards have performed down the stretch.

“Oh, yeah. He’s a veteran,” Gortat said. “He’s definitely a smart guy. Bright guy. I will stand behind his words. Sometimes we just show that mentally we’re weak and just not competing. That’s it.”

The Wizards have lost six of nine, bringing a bit of a crisis of confidence in Washington.

Gortat is getting blunt. Randy Wittman is considering lineup changes.

The Wizards now hold just a 1.5-game lead over the Bobcats for the No. 6 seed and the right to avoid a first-round matchup with the Heat or Pacers, so some concern is certainly understandable. But is something actually going wrong for Washington? Here are the the Wizards’ last nine games:

  • at Heat (loss)
  • vs. Bobcats (loss)
  • at Magic (win)
  • vs. Nets (win)
  • at Kings (loss)
  • at Trail Blazers
  • at Lakers (win)
  • at Nuggets (loss)
  • vs. Suns (loss)

Most of those games are against teams in playoff position. Most of those games are on the road. Going 3-6 in that stretch might be on the low end of the expected range, but I don’t think it’s outside it.

Remember, the Wizards started the season 2-7. Though they played better through most of the middle of the season, they haven’t transformed into an elite team overnight – even if expectations rose quickly.

A small blip in winning doesn’t necessarily make them mentally weak. But Gortat is privy to behind-the-scenes considerations that might make his assessment accurate.

Either way, even if it’s not necessary, an increased sense of urgency won’t hurt anything.

Michael Carter-Williams and Tim Frazier ejected for altercation, leading to hilarious Dwight Howard free throws (video)

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Jason Smith pushed down Michael Carter-Williams while going for a rebound. Carter-Williams pulled Smith to the floor. Tim Frazier flew in heated.

It was more than a typical NBA altercation – Carter-Williams clenched his fist, though never swung – but it wasn’t quite a fight. It was just reserves getting feisty late in a blowout, the Hornets’ 133-109 win over the Wizards on Wednesday. Carter-Williams and Frazier were given double technical fouls and ejected.

One catch: Smith was called for personally fouling Carter-Williams, who was due free throws. With Carter-Williams unavailable, Washington could pick his replacement at the line.

Wizards coach Scott Brooks chose Dwight Howard, a poor free-throw shooter who’d been resting the entire fourth quarter and surely figured his night was over. Maybe it was only about Howard’s team-worst 53% shooting from the line, but it’s also possible Brooks was trying to make an opponent uncomfortable.

The Charlotte crowd went wild, and Howard only added to the fervor.

He sunk both free throws – padding his stats (18 points, 15 rebounds, two blocks and two steals) – and blew Brooks a kiss. Howard might appreciate the extra points Brooks afforded him, but they’ll likely come at a cost. Howard celebrated with the Sam Cassell/big-balls dance, which usually draws a fine from the NBA.

Kent Bazemore hits game-winner to lift Hawks over Pelicans (video)

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Just when it seemed as if the Pelicans were rolling… they lose to the lowly Hawks.

This was the second game of a back-to-back after beating the Celtics in overtime, and New Orleans looked the part, blowing a 15-point lead in the final 19 minutes.

Kent Bazemore‘s jumper with 2.1 seconds left stood as the game-winner when DeMarcus Cousins missed a rushed post-up on the other end.

Jalen Rose calls Paul Pierce petty to his face (video)

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Paul Pierce is being petty about Isaiah Thomas‘ tribute video.

And that’s from someone who empathizes with Pierce’s point of view.

When retiring a player’s number, teams tastefully use stoppages to show highlights and tributes to the player. The whole night, not just the moment of raising a number into the rafters, can be about celebrating the player. It’s reasonable for Pierce to want the entire package.

But to go on television and advocate for not showing Thomas’ video? To continue the campaign after Thomas made clear how important his video was to him? To tell the Celtics not to show a short video for Thomas during introductions?

It’s way too far.

Too many people around Pierce enabled his flawed approach. Jalen Rose put that to a pointed stop.

Rose on ESPN:

I’ve got say a word for you, fam. I think it was petty.

On Paul Pierce’s part.

I love Paul. This is my brother. Because to me, there are going to be all type of announcements that happen in the 48 minutes during that game. All types. Including Isaiah Thomas could be one of them. It does not take away from your situation. Like Kobe’s, it happened during the game. Because they’re doing yours post-game.

The look on Pierce’s face while Rose was talking!

NBA: Referees missed multiple intentional-foul attempts by Mavericks in loss to Nuggets

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The Mavericks trailed the Nuggets by 23 points in the second half and 16 points with 5:15 left in the fourth quarter last night. But Dallas rallied and cut its deficit to only one with 10.4 seconds left. Denver had the ball, so the Mavericks had to foul.

They tried… and tried… and tried before finally succeeding.

Per the NBA’s Last Two Minute Report, Dennis Smith Jr. should have been called for intentionally fouling Will Barton with 8.2 seconds left. Failing that, Wesley Matthews should have been called for intentionally fouling Barton with 6.7 seconds left. Mercifully, officials (correctly) whistled Matthews for fouling Gary Harris with 1.7 seconds left.

Harris made both free throws, and the Nuggets escaped with a 105-102 win once Dallas couldn’t get off a shot with so little time left.

The Mavericks probably would have lost even with a correct call on this sequence. They were trailing in the final 10 seconds and without the ball.

But allowing Denver to run off an extra 6.5 seconds and get the ball to a better free-throw shooter certainly hurt Dallas’ odds.

I’m not so concerned with the result of this game, though. The Mavericks are better off improving their lottery position by losing. It is a bad break for the teams jockeying with the Nuggets for playoff position, but, again, Denver probably would have won anyway.

The bigger takeaway: Even if players are more concerned about communication than calls, if referees can’t even get consecutive intentional fouls right, that doesn’t instill much confidence in the officials.