Trailing by double digits in the fourth quarter of Game 1, the Toronto Raptors saw their home court advantage in jeopardy, but a few big plays by Lou Williams and the overall inability of the Washington Wizards to execute down the stretch saw the Raptors close the gap and nearly emerge victorious in what would have been the franchise’s first ever win in Game 1 of a playoff series.
However, the comeback by Toronto wouldn’t be enough, as Washington won the game, 93-86, in overtime. Now, the Wizards will head into Game 2 with a 1-0 series lead (as well as home court advantage).
Entering the next game, each team has some shortcomings they need to address.
#4 – Toronto Raptors
Obviously, for the Raptors, losing home court advantage in the first game of a playoff series is not a desirable result, but Dwane Casey should feel good about the fact that the Raptors had an opportunity to win despite only getting a combined 8-for-30 shooting performance from Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. The bench kept them in the game, scoring 48 of the team’s 86 points. If the reserves can come close to such productivity, and Lowry and DeRozan can find a way to be more effective going forward against the stingy defense of the Wizards, the Raptors will be in good shape.
What is most disconcerting for the Raptors heading into Game 2 will be the battle on the glass. Down the stretch of Game 1, the Wizards secured a few key offensive rebounds and ended the game with 19. That’s compared to just 10 for the Raptors, so second chance points played a major role in the loss. That needs to be addressed.
The other major issue for the Raptors was that, although he did not finish at every opportunity, John Wall was able to get wherever he wanted to on the court. He penetrated their defense at will and despite finishing the game with just eight assists, continually caused breakdowns and created opportunities for his teammates. Because few other Wizards have the quickness and athleticism as Wall, doubling him and forcing the ball out of his hands may not be a bad idea, especially when he finds himself on the floor with Marcin Gortat, Nene and Paul Pierce. It is conceivable that the Raptors’ rotations will be quick enough to thwart the Wizards’ ball movement in those situations.
Regardless, by some means, Wall needs to be slowed down.
#5 – Washington Wizards
It is difficult to find fault in a win, but when you lead by more than 10 points in the fourth quarter of a playoff game, overtime should never be necessary.
For the Wizards, down the stretch of Game 1, their offensive fluidity was halted when the Raptors were able to slow Wall down and have him operate out of a half court set. Wall has obviously been instructed to push the ball at every attempt and a great many of the defensive breakdowns that he caused in Game 1 were a direct result. More creative playmaking in the half court will be necessary for the Wizards to ultimately prevail.
Like Lowry, Bradley Beal had a miserable shooting game. He managed to convert just 6-for-23 from the field, though he did do an admirable job of moving the ball and refrained from forcing bad looks when the game was on the line. The Wizards should feel good about the efficient game that Paul Pierce turned in for them, but counting on him to maintain a stellar level of efficiency over a seven-game series may not be wise. Beal needs to be better, and counting on Pierce for 20 points on 10 shot attempts (of which he made seven) may not be wise.
Who Wins Game 2?
It is never a bad idea to bet on the home team winning Game 2 after losing Game 1, so we will not cut against the grain here. Still, the Raptors will need more from Lowry and to slow Wall down if they are to head to Washington, D.C. with the series knotted at one.
If Pierce remains efficient and if Beal bounces back, though, the Wizards may be able to steal both Game 1 and Game 2 and, perhaps, make this series shorter than many imagined. That could definitely be the case if the Wizards hold the Raptors below 90 points (something they managed to do successfully in Game 1).
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