It’s hard to say whether Paul Pierce trash talking has any actual effect on the games, but it doesn’t matter if the Washington Wizards head into game 2 on the road with a 1-0 lead over the Toronto Raptors.
A lot has been said about Paul Pierce and Masai Ujiri, but the main focus for the Raptors should be in figuring out how to start generating some offense, scoring only 86 points in four quarters plus overtime in game 1, shooting just 38% from the field, as Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan and Lou Williams, the most recent recipient of the Sixth Man of the Year Award, shot a combined 12-of-46. Without these guys getting their points the easy way, the Raptors weren’t going to put up a lot of points.
Another problem for Toronto was their inability to stop Nene, Marcin Gortat and even Drew Gooden from crashing the boards. Washington ended up with 19 offensive rebounds and scoring 52 of their 93 points in the paint, not letting their awful shooting percentage (39.4% from the field) bother them. Paul Pierce was masterfully efficient, taking only 10 shots, making 7 of them.
There were some nice moments for the Raptors’ bench and they seem to have an advantage in that area. All four players scored in double figures, including Amir Johnson with 18 points, but maybe he needs to move back into the lineup in place of Tyler Hansbrough. With Williams and Greivis Vasquez, there’s enough offense and shooting to get from the bench.
The Wizards seem to be oozing confidence despite not playing all that well in the opener. The defense did a very good job of forcing the Raptors into tough, contested jump shots, but the Raptors tend to do that anyway. Shooting so badly (John Wall and Bradley Beal combined to make just 11-of-41 field goal attempts) usually doesn’t mean good results, especially not on the road.
Maybe it means giving Pierce the ball more offensively and letting him handle the playmaking side of the game, although Wall isn’t exactly a good enough shooter to play the off-the-ball guard well enough. There’s also Pierce’s age. While he did have three days of rest, we saw how last postseason his ability fluctuated between games. Experience can only take you to a certain point before the weaknesses are revealed.
Overall, game 2 is the wake up call for the Raptors. Playing smarter basketball, close out on defense and the boards better, and stop taking so many bad shots, even if there’s a little voice inside the head of Lowry, DeRozan and Williams telling them to shoot the ball. An inside outside game with Jonas Valanciunas and getting a bit more creative might help them figure out a defense that determined the outcome of the game the first time they met.