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New year, new attitude help Marcin Gortat flourish in season-best performance vs. Knicks

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NBA: New York Knicks at Washington Wizards Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Marcin Gortat’s New Year’s resolution focused on entering 2018 with a more professional attitude. Before Wednesday’s game against the Knicks, he admitted to Chris Miller of NBC Sports Washington that his attitude on the bench wasn’t where it needed to be lately as his playing time has dropped. After averaging 30.9 minutes per game in October, he only averaged 23.7 in December.

His new approach paid dividends in the first game of 2018, as he put together his strongest offensive showing of the season. He scored a season-high 21 points on 9-of-10 shooting, while playing over 29 minutes, the most he’s played in a game since mid-December.

It was clear from the get-go he was going to have a good night. He scored eight points in his first five minutes of the game, and 14 in 14 minutes he played in the first half. Early in the third quarter, he matched his season-high of 18 points and soon after that set a new mark.

Gortat “did a good job tonight rolling,” Coach Scott Brooks said. “When he rolls, he has layups, and John was able to find him for easy buckets. You are not going to miss a lot of shots right around the key, but then he made a couple of jump shots, too. It was a good game. We needed all of his points.”

Besides his new year’s resolution, there was a member of the Knicks roster who gave Gortat a dose of extra motivation. Enes Kanter had his way with him back in October during the teams’ two preseason meetings. In those games, Kanter scored 31 points on 63 percent shooting and controlled the glass on both ends. Gortat targeted the Turkish center before the game and was focused on getting revenge.

“Basically I just decide I want to go at him,” Gortat said. “He was going at me in the preseason. I didn’t like that. I felt like I was disrespected, and that’s it.”

Although Kanter finished the game with 12 points, he was visibly frustrated as the Wizards ran the pick-and-roll against him to perfection. He was limited to four rebounds, six below his per game average.

”We needed all of his points, we needed his defense,” Coach Scott Brooks said. “He had a tough matchup with Kanter, who is playing well, and I thought he did a good job, especially in that second half.”

As Gortat came up big on offense and defense, his rebounding was just as important. He grabbed eight rebounds, to help lead the effort as Washington out-rebounded New York 42-36.

After the game, he seemed satisfied with his performance, “I’m happy we won the game. That’s the most important thing,” Gortat said. But he also made it clear that like any resolution, success isn’t based on how things are going less than a week into the new year. “It’s just one game in the season, I guess when I score like that. Let’s talk after 10, 20 more games, and we’ll see what’s going to happen.”