- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 1, 2014

Otto Porter mixed in easily with the college students at the dedication of the John Thompson Jr. Intercollegiate Athletics Center this summer. With established Georgetown luminaries there, ranging from Patrick Ewing to Dikembe Mutmbo to Allen Iverson, Porter was among the tall men in the crowd, but was far from their stature.

Summer League had also been a success for him the way his rookie season was not. Porter didn’t score in double figures last season in the 37 games he played. Injured and unsure, his ineffectiveness was enough to make many wonder about the future for the third overall pick in 2013.

The Wizards picked up his contact option earlier this year, then prepared for him to wear his new goggles and backup veteran Paul Pierce at small forward. Porter is just 21 years old and Pierce has been in the league for 16-plus seasons. It was time to learn.

Saturday night became time to take over for Porter. Pierce was ejected at the end of the first half during the home opener. Pierce’s disgruntled walk to the back unlocked opportunity for Porter. He answered with his best night as a pro.

“I knew it was an opportunity to step up,” Porter said. “Somebody has to step up so I just went out there and played.”

Porter scored 12 points in the third quarter during the Wizards’ 108-97 dispatching of the mistake-laden Milwaukee Bucks. Porter finished with 21 points, a confidence-swelling night if there was one.

“We gave the game ball to Paul Pierce tonight,” coach Randy Wittman joked.

Milwaukee matched the Wizards with all the effectiveness of using a Twizzler to unlock a door. In the first half, Nene and Marcin Gortat bullied the lithe Milwaukee post players. The duo was 13-for-15 for 30 points at the half. Beef bludgeoned length and youth.

The Bucks began the game with former Duke star Jabari Parker on Nene. That did not work. Meanwhile, Gortat pushed around Milwaukee center Larry Sanders. Gortat twice dunked on one of the league’s renowned shot blockers.

“Me and Nene, when we come into the game and we see so many young guys and guys that are not really physical bigs, they are going to have a long day,” Gortat said. “One thing for me always: you have to be physical. If you come in and you’re physical and you feel good — and I felt great today — I am going to hit anybody who’s in the paint. I don’t care who it is. A guard. I five man. I don’t care.”

Nene scored 22 points on just 12 shots. He hit midrange jumpers, drew fouls, like he did on the opening possession against the defensively challenged Parker, and had an all-around skull-thumping evening.

“He’s a force,” Gortat said.

A counterintuitive offense followed Pierce’s ejection. The Wizards scored a season-high 33 points in the third quarter with the 10-time All-Star. Fluid and easy baskets continued into the fourth. The Bucks were on the second night of a back-to-back, and it showed. They finished with 28 turnovers.

Mess upon mess was stacked in the first half. The haphazard Bucks offense committed 17 turnovers. Eleven of the 12 players that were on the floor in the first half for Milwaukee turned the ball over.

Despite the gratuity, the Wizards had issues at the end of the half. Pierce — part of multiple matchup problems the Bucks had — was ejected with seven seconds remaining in the second quarter. An extended review confirmed a clear-path foul call against Pierce. Pierce picked up a technical when arguing the call. He picked up a second technical a few seconds later.

Irritated, Pierce walked slowly off the floor and stopped at the bench. His arms out to the side, Pierce chatted with coach Randy Wittman, then sat on the bench. Referee Jason Phillips walked toward Pierce and informed him he was no longer welcome on the floor.

Pierce was also confused. He never saw the Milwaukee player who was already down the floor, which made him think the referees made a bad call. Hence, the arguing.

“It was the right call,” Wittman said. “He was sitting there telling me, ‘I don’t understand why they were looking at this, it’s not even close to being a breakaway.’ After sitting there for 10 minutes, stewing, he lost his composure a little bit. I didn’t think he deserved the second one.”

Pierce walked to the back, Brandon Knight — the only reason the inaccurate Bucks remained in the game — made three free throws. He scored 17 points in the first half. Knight was 6-for-11, producing an unlikely one-man show. The rest of the Bucks were 11-for-31 (35.5 percent) at halftime.

Garrett Temple continued his early-season effectiveness with Bradley Beal out. Temple scores a career-high 18 points on nine shots.

“He’s my utility infielder,” Wittman said.

His Saturday night assignment was stopping O.J. Mayo, who rolled into D.C. after scoring 25 points off the bench in Milwaukee’s home opener Friday night. Mayo was just 1-for-7 because Temple locked him up.

That defense mixed with Porter’s breakout night and the Wizards’ force inside produced an easy early season win.

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