The Washington Wizards didn’t waste any time discarding the Toronto Raptors, drubbing them, 125-94, to clinch the first four-game series sweep in franchise history Sunday night at Verizon Center. After losing all three regular season meetings to the Raptors, Washington became the first team since the 2011 Dallas Mavericks to sweep a series without home-court advantage.
“I think everybody’s gotten better and better as the year’s gone on,” guard Bradley Beal said. “We have that mind-set that we’re not finished. We have that mind-set that we’re an elite team in this league, and we’re going to continue to play this way. We’re going to keep things in house; we’re going to stay together as team and continue to move forward as a team.”
This will be the Wizards’ second straight trip to the Eastern Conference semifinals, and they await the winner of the Atlanta Hawks-Brooklyn Nets series. If that series goes five or six games, Washington would play Game 1 on Sunday. If it goes seven games, then Washington will play Game 1 on May 5. Either way, it will a long break for the Wizards, who fell in the second round to the Indiana Pacers in six games last season.
“We had pretty good first round; then second round, we hit a tougher team,” center Marcin Gortat said. “They learned from that experience; they’re going to come back ready to play, prepare ourselves better. Hopefully, we’re not going to make the same mistakes we had last year. And we’re going to pretty much do better. Brad’s going to take 10,000 threes. I’m going to lift six or seven times.”
Washington went 1-3 against the top-seeded Hawks – the only win came when Atlanta rested all their starters in the final meeting — and 2-2 against the eighth-seeded Nets during the regulars season. But there will be plenty of time to dissect the Wizards going forward, so let’s take a brief look back at their trouncing of the Raptors.
Game 1: April 18, 2015 at Air Canada Centre: Wizards, 93-86 (OT)
The recap: The Raptors claimed they were prepared to see the Wizards use Paul Pierce at power forward – something Washington rarely did during the regular season – but Toronto couldn’t stop the lineup anyway. The Wizards went on a 16-4 run when Pierce entered at the four the second quarter to take control of the slugfest. The lead was 15 points in the fourth quarter when Washington, in keeping with a regular season glitch, allowed the Raptors to storm back to send the game to overtime. But the Wizards recovered in the extra session. Pierce opened the scoring with a three-pointer, and Toronto didn’t tally a point until DeMar DeRozan’s uncontested dunk with 29 seconds remaining.
The standouts: Pierce was Public Enemy No. 1 in Canada as soon as the matchup was determined on the final night of the regular season for his comment about the Raptors in an ESPN interview. He was then booed relentlessly from the moment he stepped out of the Wizards team hotel in Toronto. He turned out to revel in the jeers, registering a game-high 20 points to help nullify off shooting days from John Wall and Bradley Beal. Nene posted his first double-double (12 points, 13 rebounds) since Jan. 9 and Otto Porter Jr. was a two-way standout in his first significant playoff minutes.
The stat: .380. The Raptors’ shooting percentage. Toronto entered the series with the third-ranked offense in the NBA during the regular season but couldn’t even break the 90-point threshold with five added minutes.
The quote: “We’re going to try to get greedy. We didn’t come up here to try to get one game.” – Paul Pierce
The game story: Wizards show Raptors some wrinkles
Washington defeats Toronto for two-game series lead
Game 2: April 21, 2015 at Air Canada Centre: Wizards, 117-106
The recap: Bradley Beal scored 16 points in the second quarter as the Wizards finished the first half on a 31-14 run to take an 11-point halftime lead. Toronto cut it to three points in the third quarter, but Washington pounced with a 34-14 knockout punch. The gap never got smaller than 10 points in the fourth quarter, which included double technical fouls for Beal and Lowry, who battled foul trouble to finish with 10 points on 3-for-10 shooting in 27 minutes.
The standouts: After dismal performances in Game 1, Beal (28 points) and Wall (26 points, franchise playoff record 17 assists) headed the Wizards’ effort. Marcin Gortat added 16 points and Porter continued his emergence with 15 points and nine rebounds.
The stat: 7-1. Randy Wittman’s road playoff record. Wittman became the first coach in NBA history to win seven of his first eight road playoff games.
The quote: “They think that we’re some punks. They think that they can push us around. But we’re not rolling.” – Bradley Beal during a halftime interview
Washington wins its third straight against Toronto
Game 3: April 24, 2015 at Verizon Center: Wizards, 106-99
The recap: The Wizards weathered a 20-point first quarter from DeRozan, and the teams went back-and-forth until the fourth quarter when the Wizards finally distanced themselves, taking an eight-point lead with 1:12 remaining. But Lowry’s three-pointer cut Washington’s lead to three with 40.9 seconds remaining and the Wizards were in need of a big bucket. Pierce provided it, hitting a three-pointer as the shot clock expired with 16 seconds on the clock to seal the victory.
The standouts: Pierce scored 11 of his 18 points in the fourth quarter, including eight in the final two minutes. Gortat posted a team-high 24 points and 13 rebounds, and Wall contributed 19 points and 15 assists.
The stat: 16. Shots DeRozan missed after starting 8 for 10 from the floor. The shooting guard scored 20 first-quarter points but added just 12 the rest of the game while shooting 3 of 19.
The quote: “That’s why I’m here.” – Paul Pierce after hitting the game-sealing three-pointer.
The game story: Wizards move within one win of eliminating Raptors
Washington sweeps Toronto out of the playoffs
Game 4: April 27, 2015 at Verizon Center: 125-94, Wizards
The recap: The Wizards jumped out to their best start of the series, netting 36 points in the first quarter to a 14-point lead and control they wouldn’t relinquish. Lowry encountered foul trouble for the third time in the series and the frustrated Raptors’ attempt to rile up the Wizards was unsuccessful. Washington held a 16-point lead at the half and the contest reached comical levels in the third period. When Beal responded to a Lowry three-pointer by hurriedly launching a trifecta from five feet beyond the three-point line as the shot clock expired that toiled-bowled through the basket to expand Washington’s lead to 22 points. Beal jogged back smiling. The rout was on and would expand to as many as 37 points in the fourth quarter.
The standouts: Beal led seven players in double figures with 23 points. Gortat contributed 21 points on 8 of 9 shooting and 11 rebounds. Ramon Sessions added 15 point, Pierce recorded 14, and Wall had 14 on just five field-goal attempts.
The stat(s): 28 and 15. Free throws and three-pointers the Wizards made. The three-pointers were a playoff franchise record as Washington went 15 of 26 from beyond the three-point arc and had four players convert at least three. The Wizards shot 28 of 35 foul shots. Beal went 10 of 11 and Wall went 7 for 7.
The quote: “I don’t know if anybody really picked us to beat Toronto in this series, especially without home-court advantage. So to go out there and not only be the underdog but to sweep them, I think it does send a message that, ‘Hey, you can’t take Washington lightly.’” – Paul Pierce
The game story: Wizards sweep Raptors with 125-94 rout in Game 4