The Washington Wizards are turning a series that should have been one of the closest (and possibly boring) in the first round of the playoffs into a breeze, beating the Toronto Raptors 106-99 to take 3-0 lead with game 4 being played at home, making the sweep a very likely possibility.
The Raptors continue with their inconsistent shooting, making only 37.4% of their shots. But they stayed in the game thanks to DeMar DeRozan, scoring 32 points (on 11-of-29 from the field). The game was still tied at 88-88 with 4:30 left on the clock, but the Wizards pulled away from there, as Paul Pierce and Otto Porter hit two 3-pointers each.
For Pierce, more than anyone else, this is a series to show he is more than just an old man riding to coattails of younger players towards hopeful glory. He scored 18 points and is averaging 16 per game in this series. He handles the ball quite a lot when it’s the slower pace of the game, and there doesn’t seem to be any doubt about the leader on this team, the guy everyone turns to.
John Wall finished with another impressive double double, scoring 19 points and dishing out 15 assists. He’s averaging 13.3 assists per game in this series and while he and Bradley Beal continue to be much less than desirably accurate, the Raptors can’t keep up with him as he easily finds way to get to the basket, and from there either finds open players or goes to the line.
The point guard on the other end, Kyle Lowry, looks exactly the opposite. The Raptors may have dominated the regular season with three wins in three games, but that seems like something that happened long ago, in a different age and time. Lowry is ill and bruised, but who isn’t at this stage of the season? He finished with just 5-of-22 from the field, scoring 15 points. A team that relies so heavily on not just his points but on him not making mistakes can’t afford to have him miss so many shots, taking too many bad ones.
The Wizards turned the ball over 17 times but their defense and discipline are surprisingly intact and solid through transition, allowing just nine points on the fast break. Wall is sharing the ball wonderfully, helping Marcin Gortat lead the way with 24 points (and 13 rebounds). Bradley Beal scored 16 points, Drew Gooden continues to be extremely efficient with 12 points in 18 minutes while Porter finished with 11, becoming a much more capable replacement to Pierce, even playing more minutes than him.
The Raptors insist that they’re not quitting and they still have some fight in them. But no one has ever come back from 0-3 down in an NBA playoff series, and the Raptors don’t look like a team remotely good enough to be the first. More importantly, the Wizards don’t look remotely like a team that seems fragile in any way, not under these circumstances, to let it happen to them.