The Washington Wizards are road warriors. They are the first team in NBA history to have back-to-back seasons where they won the first two of their playoff games on the road to open the season. The Chicago Bulls were the victims last year. Returning home to an extra excited home crowd did wonders for the Wizards. After the Capitals heated up the ice that the Wizards play on top of last night with a 5-1 blowout of the New York Islanders to take a 3-2 series lead, the Wizards continued the momentum at Verizon center by taking an impressive 3-0 series lead with a 106-99 victory.
This game got off to a quick start offensively for both teams. After the Wizards were getting a lot of production from Marcin Gortat, who did a nice job moving with the ball, and Bradley Beal who had it going from beyond the arc. The Raptors kept pace with a hot start from DeMar DeRozan who was 5 of 6 from the field for 12 points that later fueled a 10-2 run to give Toronto a 23-16 lead midway through the quarter. The hot shooting continued as the Raptors had a lead as great as nine before Drew Gooden came in to provide reinforcements by knocking down back-to-back triples. The Wizards were doing a good job sharing the ball early as evidenced by their 10 assists on their first 10 made field goals. DeRozan had 20 points nine minutes into the game and that led to the Raptors having a small 35-33 lead going into the second quarter.
The second quarter was a more physical grinding style of play. Just three minutes into the quarter the Wizards drew five fouls and grabbed three offensive rebounds. The tempo and scoring scored down with both team’s second units in, but the Wizards slowly began to chip away as their defense picked up. On a Wall drive midway through the quarter the Verizon Center erupted at 111.9 dB because the Wizards took a 43-42 lead. The field goal percentages plummeted for both teams in the second quarter, Raptors shot 25 percent and the Wizards shot 30 percent. Eventually the Wizards went back to the pick and roll between Wall and Gortat that led to a 6-0 run at the end of the half that gave Washington a 54-48 lead at intermission.
The Wizards came out of the halftime a bit sluggish; however, this was not their fault as it seemed every call was going against them early leading to an inefficient offensive game plan. The Wizards knack to get to the free throw line kept their offense afloat, but the Raptors were able to take a 68-67 lead for a short period of time. On the last Wizards offensive sequence, Wall was finally able to get to the rim on his attack where he converted leading to the Wizards taking a 72-70 lead into the final quarter.
The Wizards started the quarter with back to back turnovers and back-to-back fouls, allowing the Raptors to take a 73-72 lead. Wall grabbed the next defensive rebound and had a determined look on his face as he drove through a double team, spun, took the contact and completed an old fashioned three point play. The Raptors closed to within one after consecutive buckets and Wittman pulled the trigger to get Paul Pierce back in the game. Moments later Pierce declined the extra pass on the perimeter and drilled a shot beyond the arc. Late in the game when the Wizards were reeling they got more clutch shots: twice from Otto Porter who was shooting the ball with confidence and not to be out done, The Truth came through with one of his own putting the Wizards up 98-90. After Lowry had cut the Wizards lead to three, Pierce came back with a dagger three to end this game at 106-99.
Why the Wizards Won:
- The Wizards were an unselfish group tonight. They might have struggled offensively but shared the ball well as they had 27 assists on their 36 made field goals. Of course this effort was led by Wall who had 15.
- The Wizards defense stepped up after a dreadful first quarter that saw DeRozan go for a Raptors franchise record 20 points. They only allowed 64 points the rest of the game and had an astounding 13 blocks stemming from their strong rotation on defense.
- The Wizards won the transition battle as they had a 20-9 edge in fast break scoring.
The Wizards have another home game Sunday night where they look to end the series for good and have a nice rest before having to start the second round presumably in Atlanta to face the first seeded Hawks. If the Wizards cannot take care of business without returning home, Paul Pierce and the rest of his teammates will unfortunately have to go through customs when returning to Air Canada Center in Toronto for Game 5. No team in the NBA playoffs have come back to win a seven game series when starting down 3-0, and the Wizards will look to keep it that way.