Wizards center Marcin Gortat got the better of Hawks center Dwight Howard in Game 1 of their first-round playoff series Saturday, finishing with 14 points and 10 rebounds in Washington’s 114-107 win. While Howard grabbed 14 rebounds, he scored only seven points and struggled to defend the pick-and-roll. Gortat, who spent the first three-and-a-half seasons of his NBA career as Howard’s backup in Orlando, knows Atlanta’s eight-time all-star well enough to know that nothing will come easy in the paint for the remainder of the series.
“They’re going to be [ticked],” Gortat told 106.7 The Fan’s Grant Paulsen and Danny Rouhier on Tuesday of what he expects from the Hawks in Game 2 at Verizon Center. “I’m sure they’re going to be [ticked]. They’re going to come out much stronger, much harder and, at the end of the day, I know Dwight’s going to bring it. I know this kid very well. The Dwight we seen in the first game, it was probably sleeping Dwight or sick Dwight, and the next game, tomorrow, he’s going to be really furious, so it’s going to be a much tougher game for us.”
At practice Monday, Gortat described the physical battles he and Howard engaged in during practice as Magic teammates from 2007 until Gortat was traded to Phoenix in December 2010.
“He made me bleed every day for my first four years in the NBA,” Gortat said. “I bleed every day in practice, and I learned to play tough basketball, and he made me who I am today. I was going against an animal in practice. Imagine the stuff that’s going down here in the game, imagine the same stuff going three times harder in practice where you don’t have whistles, fouls and stuff like that. It was pretty much for me about surviving practice, going to the weight room every day, lift hard, because otherwise I’m going to end up in the hospital or in a wheelchair.”
“I’m not going to say anything crazy because I truly respect the guy, and we’re going to have our little shoving matches, pushes, garbage talking, but at the end of the day, he’s my vet,” Gortat, who is almost two years older than Howard, said Monday. “He took care of me back in Orlando. I’ll never forget what he did for me and that he made me a better player.”