The risk of having a fearless attitude as a shot blocker is that you could sometimes wind on the wrong end of a poster. After embarrassing several players with his chase-down blocks, John Wall was unable to catch up with Detroit Pistons forward and former Georgetown star Greg Monroe and got posterized in the first half of the Wizards’ 106-99 victory.
The reward of taking that approach is that momentum can change, and critical possessions can be secured with a stunning swat. Marcin Gortat got to experience the latter in the final minute of the game, when he made the courageous – some would say foolish – decision to meet Pistons former slam dunk champion Josh Smith at the rim.
Holding on to a four-point lead, Smith drove left around Trevor Ariza and took off along the baseline and Gortat pinned the ball against the backboard with his left hand. Gortat then walked up the court, staring down at his thumb and moving his fingers.
“Having that frustrating night – that happens a lot of time during the regular season – I knew that I got nothing to lose. Either I’m going to go block or I’m just going to get dunked on,” Gortat said. “So I just tried to get at least one good play for the team at the end of the game to help the team win the game and when I went for the block, he made a really powerful move. I blocked his shot and I guess he kind of moved me with the ball. I smacked the rim with my hand, with thumb. I just kind of bruise my nerve. I had a numb finger for a few minutes. But that’s it. I’m pretty good.”
Gortat was feeling better on the next possession, since Wall put the game out of reach by pump-faking Brandon Jennings and burying a jumper that gave the Wizards their fifth victory in the past six games.
After the game, Gortat announced on Twitter that his hand was fine but it is still a little sore. Gortat had two blocked shots in the win and was glad to make a difference on an otherwise disappointing night in which he scored eight points and grabbed just three rebounds. He certainly understood that challenging Smith could’ve lead to a humbling moment, since it has already happened before.
“Josh is known for going hard to the rim. If he puts the ball on the floor he’s not hesitating especially when he had that momentum going from the three-point line,” Gortat said. “I’ve been in that situation when I get dunked on like that a few times and particularly by this guy. You always think twice. End of the day, that’s my responsibility, to be a shot blocker, to be a rebounder. Maybe the last thing is not really working for me recently. Being at least shot blocker, protect the rim and helping the team to win.”