PHOENIX— Marcin Gortat, known as the ‘Polish Hammer’ to his teammates, had career highs in his last two games for the Phoenix Suns. The performances helped Phoenix end a three-game losing streak.
Before their game against the Celtics on Friday, the Suns had previously lost three straight to the likes of the Detroit Pistons, Philadelphia 76ers, and Charlotte Bobcats.
Against the powerhouse Boston Celtics and the New Orleans Hornets, the 7’ 0” center from Poland erupted for two quality games. The Hornets had recently won 10 games in a row.
The Suns surprised Boston. Led by Gortat, he recorded 19 points and 17 rebounds, both career highs, in a surprising 88-71 blowout over the Celtics. After the game, Gortat said, “I just tried to play hard and compete. 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.”
When asked about the difficulty in defending against Shaquille O’Neal, Gortat said the following. “In Poland, you have 150 kids at a basketball camp; one will ask you what is it like to be an NBA player and the other 149 want to know what it’s like playing against Shaq. They ask 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.”
In the next game Gortat even went better. The 26-year old from Lodz followed that Celtics’ performance by blowing out his previous high score. Off the bench against New Orleans, Gortat hit 9 of 10 shots from the field and 7-7 from the foul line. It was a new career-high of 25 points to help edge out the red hot Hornets, 104-102. He also added 11 boards.
The Suns nearly blew an eight-point lead in the final 18 seconds, but Grant Hill blocked Marcus Thornton’s inside attempt with 3.9 seconds left and Hornets guard Chris Paul’s desperation 3-point attempt missed the rim as time expired.
Suns guard Goran Dragic is now listed as day-to-day. He didn’t play against the Hornets after stepping on glass at his home Saturday. He received nine stitches in his left foot. Phoenix will play Oklahoma on Friday.