To say the first game of this year’s NBA Playoffs was ugly would be an understatement. In fact, I’m pretty sure I watched a New York Knicks and Philadelphia 76ers game back in early April that played with more quality and precision.
While aesthetically displeasing, when all was said and done the Washington Wizards withstood a late run from the Toronto Raptors that forced the game into overtime, to jump out to a 1-0 lead in their first round series with a 93-86 win on Saturday.
The Raptors fell to 0-7 all time in the opening game of a first-round playoff series, while the Wizards are now 6-1 in their last seven playoff games on the road.
Heading into this series, each team’s backcourt was the center of attention. It was John Wall and Bradley Beal against Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. It had the potential to be one of the more intriguing matchups in the first round, but it definitely didn’t play out that way.
Wall and Beal were practically non-factors, going a combined 11-of-41 from the floor for 26 points between them, and Lowry and DeRozan were arguably even more disappointing, going 8-of-30 for 22 points. Lowry, who was in foul trouble early, fouled out with more than two and a half minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.
The overtime period netted a total of 15 points, and the Raptors didn’t score their first point until 29.8 seconds remained.
In the end, it was Toronto’s newly-minted public enemy number one, Paul Pierce, that sealed the Raptors’ fate, nailing a clutch three-pointer, and coming up with a huge defensive stop against Amir Johnson with under a minute remaining. He had 20 points on the day on 7-for-10 shooting and appeared to relish each and every scathing reaction from the crowd.
It wasn’t pretty. There were almost as many personal fouls (39) as assists (43), and the teams combined for 39 percent shooting. At times it was nearly unwatchable, leading many to cringe at the notion of one of these teams moving on to the second round. But the Wizards knuckled up and came up big when it mattered most.
Maybe Pierce was right with his pregame comments. Perhaps the Raptors just don’t have “it”. It certainly looked that way today.