Intense atmosphere? Check.
Home court advantage? Check.
Epic pre-game hype speech from Masai Ujiri? Check.
Everything necessary to actually win a basketball game? Um..
Despite a late-game comeback leading to overtime, the Toronto Raptors lost to the Washington Wizards 86-93 in Game One of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. Right from the opening tip the home team displayed their usual habits of frustrating shot selection on nearly every offensive trip. On the defensive side of things, Toronto appeared to forget the definition of “rebounding”, allowing for 19 offensive boards. DeMar DeRozan led his team with 15 points on just 6-20 shooting, while Kyle Lowry contributed just seven points and four assists (Lowry fouled out in the fourth). For Washington, public enemy #1 Paul Pierce backed up his well-documented trash talk with 20 points on 4-7 three-point shooting. Star guards Bradley Beal and John Wall combined for 26 points and 14 assists. Toronto’s downfall may certainly be attributed to its horrendous third quarter showing and failure to score in the overtime period. The biggest takeaways going into Game Two are the lack of boards on both ends of the floor and the weak outing from the backcourt. Let’s get into our post-game report card:
If I wrote this report at the end of the third quarter, the grade would not be so generous. The first half of ball was a fairly even match-up (as predicted). Patrick Patterson showed up in front of his former Kentucky coach John Calipari with 10 points off the bench. Joining Pat in the “Slightly more immune to criticism” club is Amir Johnson, who recorded eight points in the first half and finished the contest with 18. Aside from the bigs, Lowry and DeRozan put up just six points apiece at the break. As Raptor fans undoubtedly know, low energy from the backcourt bleeds into the rest of the starters and proves detrimental to offensive output. Terrence Ross shot 0-6 from deep. That should tell you enough about his decision making in this one. Jonas Valanciunas was active in the early minutes, getting deep post position against Marcin Gortat but putting up just two points at halftime. Tyler Hansbrough received the starting nod and did a solid job of being the unpredictable spark we’ve come to know him as. Lou Williams took some questionable threes (WOW! WHAT A SHOCK) and shot 25% for the day. As a whole, Toronto was relentlessly sluggish on offense. Primary causes include questionable shot taking and poor starter performances. However, you have to commend this team for orchestrating a 16-2 run in the final minutes to force OT. It looked as if all hope had been lost heading into the fourth frame, yet a stream of buckets from DeRozan and Greivis Vasquez aided in the comeback effort. In overtime the Raps completely reversed their own work and managed just four points. It was a sorry sight to say the least.
Noted basket-attacker John Wall was limited to 10 points in 43 minutes of action. Wall tended towards mid-range jumpers today, relieving Toronto of any interior assault. As previously mentioned, Pierce tore apart the Raps in a series of timely threes and inside shots. The biggest issue on D was the lack of effort on the glass. The Wiz recorded 19 offensive rebounds, most occurring in late-clock situations. Toronto’s inability to box out on every possession was truly the killer in Game 1. Valanciunas sat out most of the first half and the visitors capitalized. Big men Gortat and Nene went to work on the inside, combining for 20 points and 21 rebounds. In all, the Raptors just weren’t committed to a full 48 minutes of defense. They sported a 6’9, 250lb sized gap on the floor, as James Johnson was banished to the bench all game long. Look (or pray) for Dwane Casey to make necessary rotational adjustments in Game 2. While the team does live and die by the three, its defensive performance often proves to be a deciding factor as well.
Toronto was outrebounded 61-48 on the glass. Funnily enough, DeRozan had a team-high 11 boards while big men JV and Amir had just eight each. On the flip side, Nene had a monstrous seven offensive rebounds and Drew “Yup, I’m still in the NBA” Gooden recorded four of his own. It just seemed as if the home team had no motivation to secure the ball off every missed shot. You’d think they would adjust after the first few, but it developed into a game-long issue. When paired with Casey’s irrational distribution of minutes, Toronto played unpredictable defense throughout and consequently took the L. Same old Raps.
Game Ball: Paul Pierce
I really don’t want to elaborate here. He got the job done for his team.