Indiana failed miserably on the defensive glass. The Wizards grabbed nearly half of their misses with 18 offensive rebounds to 19 Pacer defensive boards. And it was Marcin Gortat’s seven offensive rebounds that led the assault.
"It was just fun to be in the game," Gortat said. "Everything works; you feel immortal."
Gortat was immortal when guarded by Roy Hibbert and Ian Mahinmi throughout the night. Both of Indiana’s centers had decent position on Gortat, but they failed to actually block him out and push him back. But it was David West who had the most trouble with Gortat.
A huge issue West had was trying to block out way too late. When shots went up, West immediately turned to find Gortat. He was not looking to get a rebound, but rather trying to keep Gortat from getting one.
His biggest problem was turning his back to the basket.
The ball is more than halfway to the basket, and West still hasn’t turned to face the basket. So when West tries to turn around to block out, Gortat simply goes around him.
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The Pacers also had total team breakdowns on the glass, as Gortat made Indiana look pathetic.
There’s a three from John Wall, with four Pacers between Gortat – at the free throw line – and the rim. But guess who gets the rebound.
George Hill runs out to Bradley Beal on the wing, and the other three Pacers in the lane just watch the shot, expecting the rebound to land in their laps. Gortat gets an easy putback.
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There was also a more conventional offensive rebound. Usually when the Wizards have grabbed an offensive board, it has been because the Pacers defense is rotating and out of position. Now we get to use the three-month old tradition of blaming Evan Turner.
Martell Webster has driven into the lane because Turner ran past him on the closeout. That’s Mahinmi testing out verticality, while West supplies some half-hearted contest from the side.
At this point, if Webster misses, the Wizards are almost guaranteed to get the rebound. There is a Wizard closing to the basket on the baseline from both sides, plus Gortat is in position to clean up anything off the front of the rim, which is what happens.
This isn’t as big of a problem as the first two examples. The Pacers are in a scramble situation. At least Turner didn’t give up a three and gave his teammates a chance to stop the drive, but the help-side verticality has always opened up the offensive glass.
But offensive rebounding isn’t the only way that Gortat destroyed Indiana. Randy Wittman called Gortat’s number throughout the night, including the first possession.
The Wizards opened the game with an offensive set designed for Gortat. Ultimately, the Wizards set two screens in the lane for Gortat to get open on the block.
Wall has passed the ball to Nene just past the elbow. Wall is now cutting into the lane to screen West. Trevor Ariza is coming up behind West to screen as well.
As Beal takes the dribble handoff from Nene, the Wizards set a perfect screen on West, who had no idea it was coming.
The result is a wide-open shot for Gortat just outside the block and two points.
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Throughout the game Washington got Gortat the ball on the block three times with this play, and he scored all three times. Indiana did a better job of fighting through the screens, but Gortat had enough space to make a move into his hook shot.
If the Wizards go to this again – and Gortat is rolling again – the best answer is likely to have Lance Stephenson slow down Gortat. His man, Trevor Ariza, is running to the far corner. It would take a tough skip pass or two passes to get to the ball to Ariza.
But it was an intentional effort by Washington to get Gortat involved offensively.
"We needed to get him more touches, and he took it from there," Wittman said of Gorat.
But simply, Gortat was on fire. He had more points outside the paint in game five than he had in the first four games combined, 12 to six. But he had eight points and drew two fouls from crashing the offensive boards, while Indiana never figured out how to stop him.