John Wall dominated once again and the Wizards took care of Toronto 106-99 to go up 3-0 in the series. The Raptors won the first quarter for the third straight time and once again, went into the half trailing. Going into the series, the Washington’s bench was considered to be their biggest weakness. This was a valid assumption: their five starters led the team in on court net rating, per NBA.com. The Wizards’ reserves have been superb to start the series, with second year wing Otto Porter Jr. leading the way.
Porter has been a relevation throughout the series, leading the Wizards in plus minus at +36 for the series. Wall is second at +28. Porter’s production has been fantastic too: 10.3 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.7 steals per game on a blazing hot 63.2 percent shooting and 50 percent from deep. Wittman finally featuring lineups with Paul Pierce at power forward has been huge, but Porter is doing far more than just leveraging the short minutes with that clever lineup.
His on-ball defense has been fantastic and several times throughout the series, Porter has flown into the picture to disrupt a play or make a steal. His off-ball gambles have been the perfect mix of risk and reward. When all the defensive attention is focused on the dynamic duo Wall and Bradley Beal pose, Porter is flying into the paint for uncontested offensive boards instead of only spotting up in the corners. His energy and execution have forced Wittman’s hand: only Wall and Beal are averaging more than Porter’s 33.8 minutes per game in the playoffs. Porter has shown flashes of all of this in the regular season, but he never found a consistent role in Wittman’s rotation. His emergence as a key sixth man is nothing short of miraculous for Wittman and the Wizards.
In a smaller–but almost as entertaining–subplot, Drew Gooden has been a legitimate stretch four for the Wizards. He chipped in 12 points and seven boards in only 18 minutes Friday, hitting three key triples in the first half. The ability to mix and match Pierce and Gooden at the four with Porter at small forward has been a crucial aspect of the Wizards’ success.
While Porter’s play has been a great story for Washington, the Raptors are falling apart in the most public of manners. Kyle Lowry continues to play just dreadfully. He knocked two threes to open the game and proceeded to miss 11 straight shots over the next two quarters. Whether it’s fatigue, nagging injuries, or more likely a combination of both, Lowry looks completely toast. He was mostly lifeless on both ends from the opening tip, finishing five of 22 from the floor. He made two of his last three shots in a fruitless Toronto comeback attempt, lightly obscuring the true awfulness of his night on offense.
DeMar DeRozan had a much better game, but it was really the same old story for him, too. DeRozan blasted off to 20 first quarter points, almost exclusively off of long jumpers. He quietly missed all four of his second quarter shots as the Wizards stormed to a 54-48 halftime lead. He finished with 32 points, six assists, and six boards, but he missed 15 of his final 18 shots. DeRozan gets going early off extremely difficult long jumpers, but he hasn’t found any easy or efficient ways to score once those shots stop falling.
Paul Pierce was never worried about this Toronto team, and he continues to back up his confident words. Pierce knocked down four triples en route to 18 points in 27 minutes. His two three pointers in the late stages of the fourth quarter firmly put the Raptors out of reach and ignited the Washington crowd. He may not be able to jump much or run very fast anymore, but Paul Pierce still gets it done at key moments. How can you not love it?
This series is over. No NBA team has ever come back from down 3-0, and the Raptors aren’t exactly losing 50-50 games. Per NBA.com, Washington has the second best net rating in the playoffs, better than Cleveland, Chicago, and Golden State. In a first round where all but one series are 3-0 or 2-0, the Raptors have been outplayed worse than nearly everyone. This Toronto team was never constructed with a specific plan in mind, as Masai Ujiri took over a mismatched roster that turned into a pseudo-contender with the trade of Rudy Gay. At the end of his second season up North, Ujiri is undoubtedly itching to build with a real plan going forward. Any player on Toronto’s roster could be gone next season, with head coach Dwane Casey’s seat perhaps the hottest of all. The Raps may somehow band together to steal Game 4, but the Wizards have locked this one up.