NEW YORK – Marcin Gortat got tangled with Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Garnett and within an instant, Garnett was on his side and Gortat was all alone, waiting to rebound John Wall’s missed jumper. Gortat waited for the carom then guided it into the basket for a huge putback that gave the Wizards a three-point lead with 95 seconds left in their 113-107 win at Barclays Center.
The Wizards (11-13) didn’t shoot the ball very well, or have a noteworthy defensive effort, but they emerged victorious by dominating Brooklyn on the boards. The Nets welcomed back all-star center Brook Lopez, but he and Garnett did little to keep the Wizards’ front court tandem of Gortat and Trevor Booker from controlling most of the missed shots.
Gortat and Booker combined for 23 of the Wizards’ 51 rebounds, giving the team a 20-board edge on a night when Brooklyn shot almost 10 percentage points higher from the field (52.7-43.2). The Wizards also outscored the Nets, 23-3, in second-chance points after hauling 19 offensive rebounds.
“It was big for us,” Booker said. “It was working early, just pounding them on the glass and we stuck with it. And we came out, on top.”
Booker is usually up when he gets the chance to compete against fellow South Carolina native Garnett but he couldn’t explain what led to him grabbing 13 rebounds – including a career-high nine on the offensive end – despite not seeing the floor in the fourth quarter. Six of Booker’s offensive rebounds came on two possessions.
In the second quarter, Booker got inside and tried to tap in a Gortat missed jumper but failed to get the shot to fall on three putback attempts. In the third quarter, Booker failed on three putback attempts, but the Wizards came out of the possession with a Gortat layup that pushed the lead up to six. Booker finally got rewarded for his activity shortly thereafter, when swooped inside to tip in a missed John Wall jumper and give the Wizards a 66-55 lead.
Since voicing his displeasure about his role on the team, Booker has averaged 10.9 points and 9.1 rebounds while shooting 53.1 percent from the floor. Booker has also had three double-doubles.
“Before the game, I had a goal of getting 15 boards,” said Booker, who came three points shy of his fourth double-double. “It didn’t matter if most of them were offensive or defensive. I was a couple shy of that, but I did a pretty good job on the boards.”
The Wizards’ effort on the glass resulted in them setting a new season-high for offensive rebounds. They had 18 offensive rebounds last week in Atlanta. Washington is now 7-4 in games in which it has more rebounds than the opponent.
“When you win the boards by 20 – we had 19 offensive rebounds – that’s huge,” Coach Randy Wittman said. “It’s a little bit demoralizing. We’ve been on the other end. You work your tail off, having a good defensive possession and give it up on an offensive rebound.”
Wittman went with Nene and Kevin Seraphin over Booker in the fourth quarter, but it opened up the floor for Gortat to own the glass. Gortat had seven of his 10 rebounds in the final period, and also made all three of his four baskets in the second half. All of his made shots were within five feet of the rim – including that tip-in over a fallen Garnett.
After Gortat had expressed some frustration about drifting too far from the basket, Wittman decided to poke a little fun at him. “I thought Marc was much better in the second half. He settled for outside, 15-foot shots. I told him, ‘You can’t blame me, I didn’t call one of them.’ I told him to get his big butt rolling to the basket and I thought in the second half he did.”