A seething Marcin Gortat, usually gregarious and effusive, was blunt Tuesday night as the Washington Wizards gathered their belongings for a late-night flight to Minneapolis. The Wizards had lost their fourth straight game, but his frustration went beyond the team result.

Gortat spent three quarters tormenting the undersized Golden State Warriors front line. Coming off a 24-point, 10-rebound performance in Sunday’s loss to the Detroit Pistons, he had 16 points and 11 rebounds through three quarters of the Wizards’ 114-107 loss to the Warriors. But he didn’t log a second on the floor in the final period, continuing a recent trend of sitting out fourth quarters.

Visibly perturbed after the game, Gortat said he expected to play in the fourth quarter. Asked if he was discouraged by Wittman’s decision to bench him, Gortat declined to respond.

“Uh,” Gortat said before pausing for six seconds. “I’ll just say next question.”

Coach Randy Wittman explained he decided not to play Gortat to counter the Warriors’ small-ball lineup, which featured the 6-foot-9 David Lee at center for most of the quarter.

Wittman instead played Kris Humphries for nearly nine minutes alongside Nene. Rasual Butler then replaced Humphries with just over three minutes remaining when Golden State went even smaller with the 6-7 Draymond Green at center and Andre Iguodala, a wing player, at power forward.

“Nene’s not big? We had a big guy out there,” Wittman responded when asked if the Wizards could’ve taken advantage of the Warriors’ smaller lineup with Gortat’s size. “That was a decision I went with. Off the dribble they spread the floor. We have to defend off the dribble. We threw it into Nene against that. That was a decision we made. You might want a different one, obviously, you do, it’s a question you’re asking. But it’s my decision, not yours. So that’s the one I went with.”

Point guard John Wall echoed Wittman’s reasoning.

“It’s tough when a team goes with all five shooters,” Wall said. “They spread the court. They put Draymond Green at the five. Igoudala at the four, [Harrison] Barnes at the three. We tried to match what they had. It was tough. They’re a team that can play in different ways. Those guys do a great job of switching pick-and-rolls, making you take tough shots, double-team the post. That’s how they took away and got the lead at the end. They went small.”

While most NBA teams have trended away from traditional front lines that feature big bodies patrolling the paint, instead utilizing players that can shoot and spread the floor at the four and even at center, the Wizards elected to sign the 6-11 Gortat to a five-year, $60-million contract over the summer to play alongside Nene and retain their brawny front court to potentially capitalize on undersized opponents.

Yet while Gortat has started every game for the Wizards this season, he isn’t finishing them. He has logged 621 minutes in the first quarter, 253 in the second, and 620 in the third, but just 154 in the fourth this season. And zero minutes in the fourth on Tuesday.

Gortat was asked how he would quantify the team’s frustration level after four straight losses — all without starting guard Bradley Beal — and nine in 11 games over all.

“Out of the roof,” he said. “Really high.”


After totaling 17 points in Washington’s two games out of the all-star break, Paul Pierce shouldered the offensive load with 25 points, including 14 in the third quarter, but hobbled off the court after banging knees with a Warriors player on the game’s final play. Pierce needed help from Kevin Seraphin and Nene on his walk to the locker room but emphasized the knee is not a concern.

“It was just basically a knee to knee, just ice it,” Pierce said. “I think it will be alright.”

Pierce was walking around the Wizards locker room without a noticeable limp following the game.

“Can’t break steel,” he declared as he walked away from the throng of reporters.


The Wizards will crash Kevin Garnett’s return to Minnesota on Wednesday night when they take on the Timberwolves at Target Center. Garnett, in his 20th NBA season, was traded from the Brooklyn Nets back to the Timberwolves last Thursday and will suit up Wednesday.

The Timberwolves (12-43) drafted Garnett fifth overall in the 1995 draft. He played 12 seasons in Minnesota before he was traded to the Boston Celtics in 2007. Wittman was an assistant on the Timberwolves staff under current Minnesota coach — and former Wizards coach — Flip Saunders for Garnett’s first four seasons.