Paul Pierce didn’t know if his Washington Wizards would encounter the Toronto Raptors in the playoffs when he sat down with ESPN.com last week in Philadelphia for a candid interview. The postseason picture hadn’t been finalized and at that point the Raptors were only a possible opponent, so he was asked about them and bluntly opined that they don’t “have the ‘It’ that makes you feel worried.”
The interview was published Tuesday, causing a stir, and a day later it was determined that the Wizards and Raptors would meet in the first round. The Raptors – from the general manager to the coach to the players – haven’t taken the high road when asked for reactions. On Thursday, Pierce attempted to clarify his comments.
“I really was talking about a number of teams. It wasn’t everything was focused on Toronto,” Pierce said. “I think I was voicing my opinion on a number of teams that over the years, when you see those contenders and are just like, ‘Man, they’re going to be really hard to beat. They got a chance to win a championship.’ That’s what I was really focusing on. Not to take anything away from Toronto. They’re a great team in their own right. But I guess what I mean when you’ve faced a guy like a LeBron James over the years in the playoffs, a guy that can really turn it around by himself, guys like Vince Carter and Allen Iverson.”
The Wizards have lost six of their last seven games against the Raptors, including all three matchups this season. Their only win came last season in double overtime. But Pierce dismissed the struggles, citing a couple of his Boston Celtics teams he played on that were on both ends of a season sweep only to see the result reverse in the postseason.
“I’ve been in that situation before,” Pierce said. “A lot of things change in the playoffs. Each team’s 0 and 0 so right now we’re a confident group. We feel like we can beat pretty much any team in the East.”
If anyone knows how the Raptors perform in the postseason, it’s Pierce. The 37-year-old played a significant role in the Brooklyn Nets’ first-round series win over the Raptors last year and blocked Kyle Lowry’s potential game-winning shot as time expired in Game 7. A year later, he’s on the other side again, this time in a different uniform with a target on his back.
“They got great players,” Pierce said. “Don’t take nothing away from Lowry, don’t take nothing away from [DeMar] DeRozan, but the guys I’m talking about can pretty much win a series by themselves. They rely on great team basketball, great team defense, they have a great cast around them. And that’s what I probably meant by saying that “It” factor.
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