Suns News

Gortat Propels Suns to Win at Boston “T” Party

Marcin Gortat set a new career high in points with 19 in Friday's win over Boston.
Barry Gossage/NBAE/Getty Images
By Josh Greene, Suns.com
Posted: Jan. 28, 2011

Ejected Celtics Kevin Garnett and Doc Rivers may have called it an early night, but for Marcin Gortat and the Suns, call it a big night.

The Phoenix center set a career high with 19 points and a season high with 17 boards in Friday’s 88-71 win over Boston. It was the big man’s 10th double-digit scoring effort this season and the fourth time he has had a double-double in consecutive games.

“I just tried to play hard and compete,” Gortat said. “I’ve been thinking of a lot of things over the last couple of days, and I appreciate the opportunity I have here. I have a very good coach who gives me a lot of freedom and a lot of playing time. A lot of teammates trust me, and I’m grateful I have this opportunity. I’m just trying to be productive. I still believe I can do better.”

“The Polish Hammer” was 8-of-13 from the field over 30 minutes of playing time, and also exhibited his long-range ability with a rare buzzer-beating three-pointer to end the first quarter, as the Suns won their seventh in the last 11 games.

“He was phenomenal,” teammate Vince Carter said. “He came out playing and not worrying about how he was going to get it or from where. He was being the player we need him to be. Defend, rebound and when he gets the ball, make plays. He’s not timid. He was engaged and awesome from both ends of the floor.”

With tempers running high on both teams and double technicals for KG and his head coach, the game was reminiscent of a feisty Suns practice 24 hours earlier – an energy that will be much valued Sunday when the Hornets come to town.

“In yesterday’s practice,” Gortat said, “you could see everyone battling each other… me vs. Robin (Lopez)… Zabian (Dowdell) vs. Goran (Dragic)… Everybody was just competing for time, and you could see what was going on. I was asking myself why we couldn’t play with that same energy and toughness in games. And we did it.”

GORTAT ON PERKINS AND SHAQ

Playing in the Eastern Conference for his entire career before his trade to Phoenix, Marcin Gortat was already well familiar with lining up against the likes of Kendrick Perkins and Shaquille O’Neal from his days with the Magic.

Perkins, who tallied two points and four rebounds vs. the Suns Friday, was always one of the more physical presences – even more so when Gortat would spell Dwight Howard off the bench.

“I always had the feeling Perkins was still mentally fighting Dwight,” Gortat said, “even when Dwight would come out of the game. He would still hit me and battle me, and I’m a totally different player than Dwight. Dwight would try to block his shot and he would try to foul him harder. I’d end up taking a charge.

“He’s a physical guy who won’t let anything go. He’s like a little dog that will never let go of you. They’ll keep barking and running around you. You keep throwing the little ball, and they keep bringing it back. He’ll grab a hold of your leg and never let go. He keeps fighting. At some point, you say, ‘Dude, haven’t you had enough?’ Honestly, that’s character, and I respect that.”

O’Neal, who had missed the last three games with a sore hip, returned to action against his former club to the tune of five points and four rebounds in 15 minutes Friday.

Gortat recalled, “(Orlando) Coach Van Gundy once said, ‘It doesn’t matter what you’re going to do. You can play all different defenses on him, different rotations – the one thing you needs is (guts). You need (guts) to guard that guy.’ You see a guy 350 pounds running at you, you better be ready.

“In Poland, you have 150 kids at a basketball camp, one will ask you what it’s like to be an NBA player and the other 149 want to know what it’s like playing against Shaq. ‘How big is he? What’s his shoe size? How much does he bench press?’ It was all about Shaq. If I didn’t get to play him this year, the kids would be disappointed.”

Gortat is also familiar with the softer side of the “great, dominant big man.”

“People talk about him like he’s some sort of joker, but in my second year, he asked me how my dad was doing. It was impressive to me that a guy like Shaquille O’Neal knew about my dad. Since then, I always had fun playing against him.

“I took a couple of elbows, too!”

JACK IN THE BOX CELEBRITY SHOOTOUT TOMORROW

Tickets are still available for tomorrow’s 10th Annual Jack in the Box Celebrity Shootout, presented by Robert & Carole Machiz. This star-studded charity basketball game, benefitting Phoenix Suns Charities and Suns Nite Hoops, tips off at US Airways Center at 2 p.m.

In addition to scheduled celebrities like Common, Anthony Anderson, Frankie Muniz, DJ Clue, Kiowa Gordon and Columbus Short playing in the big game, members of the Suns will be stopping by to take in some of the action. Grant Hill and Jared Dudley will also serve as honorary coaches for the annual basketball benefit.

“Of all the celebrity games in the NBA, this one is always the most fun,” Phoenix resident and converted Clippers fan Frankie Muniz told Suns.com. “Everybody looks forward to this one, because the Suns put on a great event.

“To be able to play basketball on the Suns’ court with the Suns coaching and for it all to be for a good cause, that’s really cool.”

Tickets start at $9 and can be purchased at all Ticketmaster outlets, online at Ticketmaster.com, by calling 1-800-745-3000 or at the US Airways Center box office.