Trailing a series 0-3, at least in the National Basketball Association, is usually fatal. That’s where the Toronto Raptors find themselves, heading into Game 4 on the verge of becoming extinct in the first round of the playoffs for the second consecutive season.
On Friday night, the Wizards got huge shots from Paul Pierce (18 points) and a 24-point, 13-rebound effort from Marcin Gortat en route to taking a commanding 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven series. With the 106-99 decision, the Raptors will face elimination when Game 4 tips off on Sunday afternoon, and there is little reason to believe that they will avoid the sweep.
#4 – Toronto Raptors
After shooting just 5-for-22 in Game 3, Kyle Lowry has converted just 10 out of the 42 shots he has taken over the course of the series. Although DeMar DeRozan set the tone for the Raptors early by scoring 20 points in the game’s first quarter, he managed just 12 points the rest of the way as the Wizards’ defense eventually clamped down.
After scoring 35 points in the game’s first quarter, the Raptors scored just 64 over the game’s final three. As a team, they shot 35 percent in the game’s second half and got just 22 points from their bench.
Heading into Game 3, the biggest questions for the Raptors was whether Lowry would be effective and whether or not the bench could score on the road as well as they did in Game 1 and Game 2 in Toronto. The answer, in each case, was no.
#5 – Washington Wizards
The Wizards have proven that what occurs in the regular season does not necessarily carry over into the playoffs. The Raptors swept the Wizards during the regular season, but that, obviously, is now a distant memory.
In Game 3, John Wall shot poorly from the field (5-for-15) but still managed a fairly impressive 19-point, 15-assist double-double. It became fairly obvious earlier in this series that Wall would push the basketball at every opportunity and the trend has continued. Even when the pushes have not resulted in fast break points, Wall has been keeping the defense on their heels and helping to create space and keep the floor open for his teammates. This was evidenced by the 12 three-pointers the Wizards converted in Game 3.
The production from Gortat helped to cancel out what was another off shooting night for Bradley Beal (4-for-12). And while we do question why Beal is shooting the ball so poorly, the fact that the Wizards enter Game 4 with an opportunity for a sweep underscores the team’s depth, which we have been impressed with since December.
Who Wins Game 4?
With the Wizards all but certain to move on to the second round and do battle with the winner of the Atlanta Hawks-Brooklyn Nets series, a few extra days of rest for Beal and Pierce would do the team well. Staying home in Washington, D.C. and avoiding heading back to Toronto for a potential Game 5 should be enough incentive for the young Wizards to get the job done in four games. Heading into the series, the prediction here was six or seven tough games. Unfortunately, the Raptors have been on the wrong end, especially with Lowry operating at less than 100 percent.
What has become clear is that the Raptors have no answer for Wall and will likely fail at stopping his forays into the paint, his pushes, Beal and Pierce’s shooting, Gortat and Nene’s productivity on the interior and Otto Porter, Drew Gooden and Ramon Sessions contributing from the bench.
To this point, the full array of the Wizards talents have been on display, and after racing out to a 3-0 series lead, the sample size seems big enough to suggest that the brooms will come out on Sunday.
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