TORONTO — On one of the best playoff nights in franchise history, the Toronto Raptors remained joyous long after their 130-119 win over the Washington Wizards.
Lithuanian-born Jonas Valanciunas, who outmuscled the Wizards on the glass, joked about how he wanted to answer reporters’ questions in Spanish.
Then Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, whose scoring and consistency outshined Washington, played up their bromance by engaging in a light-hearted quarrel for the cameras.
The Raptors could not stop laughing Tuesday night. Never before has a Toronto team had this much fun — scoring the most points in a playoff game in franchise history to earn a two-games-to-none series lead for the first time.
Then again, the Raptors have never faced an opponent like these Wizards, a team still failing to defend at a playoff level and struggling to connect their words with actions.
After two days of making adjustments, the Wizards executed the same broken defensive plan that led to their Game 1 demise in this NBA Eastern Conference first-round series, allowing seven three-pointers and an opponent-season-high 44 points in the first quarter.
By halftime, the Raptors, who soared to a 23-point lead, had totaled 76 points (another postseason franchise record). Though the Wizards nearly erased the deficit and came to within 113-108 in the fourth quarter, Toronto had the last laugh: a 19-4 run to swell the lead back to 20 points with 2:33 remaining.
DeRozan scored a postseason-career-best 37 points, while Valanciunas (19 points, 14 rebounds) and Lowry (13 points, 12 assists) recorded double-doubles.
“It’s tough to overcome 44 points in the first quarter,” Wizards Coach Scott Brooks said, “tough to overcome seven threes in the first quarter, but we somehow managed to do it. We probably ran out of gas a little bit.”
Their tank hit empty during an important play in the fourth quarter when point guard John Wall tossed a lob pass to power forward Markieff Morris. But Wall’s pass did not find his 6-foot-10 teammate, and instead the Raptors’ 6-foot-5 Delon Wright swatted it away. While all-star Bradley Beal all but froze and watched the ball nearly roll out of bounds, DeRozan gave chase. DeRozan saved the possession to Lowry, who found the streaking Wright for the emphatic finish.
It was just one of many moments that doomed the Wizards into this two-game hole.
“We have to come out and play,” Brooks said. “We can’t have two different units out there competing. We’ve got to have both units out there competing.”
Wall scored 22 of his 29 points in the second half, but his late push could not cover the failure of the Wizards’ starting unit. Beal was penalized for four shooting fouls, including three on shooters who were in the act of attempting long-distance shots. Beal also made just 3 of 11 shots and finished with a minus-34 rating, the worst for a Wizards player in the last 20 postseasons, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
Within the ashes of this game, the Wizards’ bench outperformed the first unit and scored 63 points. Mike Scott led the reserves with 20 points, including 4-for-5 shooting from beyond the three-point arc. Ty Lawson, making his Wizards debut after Wall picked up his second foul in the first quarter, provided a surprise off the bench. Lawson hit four three-pointers and rang up 14 points and eight assists while Kelly Oubre Jr. also scored 14.
The Wizards made 10 of 22 shot from beyond the arc in total but still didn’t match the sizzling start by the Raptors.
In the first quarter, when a Raptors player — any player, including a big such as Serge Ibaka — made a penetrating move to the basket, several Washington defenders merely chased the ball like a pet hypnotized by a chew toy. Instead of paying attention to the real threat moving into position beyond the arc, the Wizards followed the shiny thing until Toronto moved the ball to the open shooter.
Washington inexcusably surrendered three long-range shots from the same corner area in front of the Raptors’ bench.
While the corner troubled the Wizards, Beal had his own difficulty in defending around the arc. While the Wizards trailed 12-4 early in the opening quarter, he fouled rookie OG Anunoby on a three-point attempt. Later in the quarter, Beal clocked DeRozan as the Raptors guard was shooting from three-point range and gave up a four-point possession.
When Beal returned to the floor in the second quarter, he continued to make defensive blunders. With 1:56 remaining in the first half, Beal tried to contest Valanciunas but instead picked up his third shooting foul.
Beal knew the whistle was coming and walked the length of the court to the Wizards’ sideline without saying a word. But once he found his seat, Beal yelled an expletive to himself — summing up the feelings of the Wizards’ faithful who watched this game.
“I just think in the first quarter they came out aggressive,” Wall said. “I think . . . me and Brad picking up two fouls early kind of hurt us. They really went on a big run. Other than that, I feel like we would have been in the game. I mean, 44-27 in the first quarter is very tough, and our two best players are out with foul trouble. That kind of hurt us, and they took full advantage of that.”
— Candace Buckner
Game 1 recap and biggest moments:
*Toronto wins 130-119 to flip the script on Washington: The Raptors took a 2-0 lead Tuesday night as the series heads to Washington, where the Wizards hope to avoid a sweep — which is exactly what happened the last time these two met in the playoffs. Back in 2015 it was Washington who swept the opening round 4-0.
*John Wall is still surging: The point guard has 29 points, nine assists and this:
But Toronto has put some space back into this game.
*Tim Bontemps on the majesty of John Wall: In desperate straits at halftime and trailing by 18, Wizards Coach Scott Brooks opted to go small. And, in doing so, he’s gotten the Wizards back into a game that looked over.
Well, that and John Wall being ridiculous, anyway.
What once was a 22-point lead has been cut to, at one point, five in the fourth quarter of Game 2 in Toronto, and currently sits at 113-103 with seven minutes remaining. But even if Washington fails to complete this comeback — and the most likely outcome is that they do come up short — expect the Wizards to remain small moving forward in this series.
It’s given Wall so many more lanes to operate, and the difference has been notable.
*If you didn’t already know the bench was carrying this game: Mike Scott has 20 points in 22 minutes. He’s doing well in Scott Brooks’s small lineup.
*The Wizards are trying to work things out: We knew going into this opening round that Washington didn’t exactly have its identity solidified. They’re working on it.
More beef here:
And yet … four minutes into the fourth quarter, they’ve narrowed it to a five-point game, courtesy of an 8-0 run. It was once a 23-point deficit. Toronto answered with a 17-4 run.
*AFTER THREE QUARTERS: It’s a 10-point game: Washington used an 8-2 run to end the third with a much smaller deficit, outscoring Toronto 32-24 in the frame. John Wall came alive for 14 points in the third quarter. Can the Wizards get even closer?
*Here’s a bright spot: John Wall isn’t 6-for-20 from the floor: He’s 6-for-12 for 15 points and having a quietly solid shooting night, in part because the Raptors showed in Game 1 that they’re content to slack off Wall and key in on the other shooters. But to say Wall can’t do it alone is a major understatement.
*Bradley Beal picks up his fourth foul midway through the third quarter: It gets worse:
The Wizards started the third quarter with a nice 7-0 run. Then that vanished.
*HALFTIME: Raptors 76, Wizards 58: The Wizards were led by Mike Scott with 14 points off the bench, and John Wall and Bradley Beal combined for 13 points. Washington’s defense allowed the Raptors to shoot 56 percent from the field for the half, including 50 percent from the three-point line (11-for-22) as DeMar DeRozan unloaded a team-high 20 points.
76 is tied for the second most points the Wizards have given up in a half this season.
* Tim Bontemps’s take: Those questions about the Toronto Raptors finally being able to carry over their regular season form to the playoffs?
Yeah, those have been answered. And then some.
Toronto leads Washington 76-58 at halftime, and it’s hard to see how the Raptors won’t go on to secure a 2-0 lead in their first round series against the Wizards. This has been a truly comprehensive performance, destroying the Wizards from start to finish and erasing all doubts about whether they’d be able to carry over the best regular season in franchise history to the postseason.
The question now is whether Washington can do something to change the course of this game after an embarrassing first half display.
*It’s getting even messier at Air Canada Centre: Some folks in their courtside seats spilled a bunch of beer and soda. Alright guys, it’s not that bad.
This is messy, too.
*Three the North: The Raptors have hit 11 threes in the first half. Yikes. As the Wizards’ defense continues to struggle, the Raptors continue their three-point blitz.
*The legend of Ty Lawson: Lawson, in his Wizards debut, is their best player so far in Game 2. Fresh from China, Lawson has eight assists in 12 first-half minutes. John Wall and Bradley Beal are pinned to the bench with two fouls apiece.
* The Raptors have never won the first two games to open a playoff series: But they are well on their way tonight!
*Let’s review this late first-quarter lineup: Kelly Oubre Jr., Mike Scott, Ty Lawson, Tomas Satoransky and Ian Mahinmi matched up against Toronto’s starters to end the first quarter. That’s all. After one, it’s 44-27.
*Ty Lawson made a three! Everything else is bad: REBOUNDS: 13-3 Toronto. FIELD GOAL PERCENTAGE: Toronto 62.5, Washington 37.5. THREE POINTERS: Toronto 4, Washington 1. SCORE: 28-13 with 4:20 left in the first.
In the first seven minutes of Raptors-Wizards we have seen:
— John Wall pick up two fouls
— Ty Lawson, fresh off a stint in China, checking into the game
— Marcin Gortat being turned into a traffic cone
— Mike Scott checking into the game for him
— Four different Raptors hitting three-pointers, and going 4-for-5 from three overall.
That’s how a team that desperately needs to win Game 2 after losing Game 1 finds itself trailing by 15 points in the first eight minutes.
This could get ugly in a hurry for Washington — and the Wizards could see this series, and their season, all but end along with it.
*Feeling shaky about the Wizards’ chances? Here are two good, probably inconsequential stats to help. John Wall and Bradley Beal have never lost a Game 2 of an opening playoff round when they’re both available to play. Also, the Wizards and Capitals (who play tonight in Columbus) have won playoff games on the same day twice. Both times, the Air Canada Centre was involved — in 2015, when the Wizards beat the Raptors and last year when the Capitals beat the Maple Leafs. Good luck, eh?
*Fred VanVleet is available tonight. What does that mean for the Wizards? Backup point guard Fred VanVleet is available to play tonight after sitting out Game 1 with shoulder soreness. The second-year pro has been a pretty efficient shooter for Toronto especially in the second half of the season, but Raptors Coach Dwane Casey said in his news conference yesterday that the real difference VanVleet makes is that he opens the floor with his three-point shot. VanVleet shot 44 percent from beyond the arc in the second half of the season, and the Wizards really don’t need another good perimeter shooter to deal with in Game 2 — the Raptors had 16 three’s on Saturday
Previous series results
Game 1: at Raptors 114, Wizards 106
Game 3: Friday at Washington, 8 p.m., NBCSW and ESPN2
Game 4: Sunday at Washington, 6 p.m., NBCSW and TNT
Game 5 (if necessary): Wednesday, April 25, at Toronto, time TBD, NBCSW
Game 6 (if necessary): Friday, April 27, at Washington, time TBD, NBCSW
Game 7 (if necessary): Sunday, April 29, at Toronto, time and television TBD
>> Any way you judge the Wizards — with or without John Wall, at their best or worst, home or road, bickering or harmonious, big game or run-of-the-mill affair — they do one thing with stunning consistency: Flub the fourth quarter. They close games like they are trying to slam the heaviest door ever made. If they don’t summon more late-game strength, their season of what ifs and not quites will end with a few last “We had ’em, but . . . ” regrets, writes Jerry Brewer.
>> John Wall thought he was “fat” when the season opened. During this two-month layoff to rehab from knee surgery, Wall and his personal remolded his diet and body. He’s dropped almost 15 pounds, enabling him to play lighter on his feet. Here’s how that diet looks. Speaking of Wall, Tom Boswell thinks the Wizards star needs to shoot a whole lot less.
>> Ty Lawson, who agreed Friday to a deal with the Wizards for the rest of the season, did not play in Game 1 against the Toronto Raptors, but he has more postseason experience over the past two weeks than anyone in this series. Still, it’s unclear whether Lawson will actually see minutes.
>> The Raptors and Wizards are such comparable peers. They’ve both been building toward their current rosters since 2010. They both broke through to the playoffs in 2014. But after the Wizards swept the Raptors in the 2015 playoffs, Toronto made the conference final the next season while Washington still hasn’t advanced beyond the second round. So while the Wizards and Raptors once had similar trajectories, now Toronto has clearly surged ahead, writes Jerry Brewer.
>> No one player can be blamed for the Wizards’ defensive mistakes in Game 1. But Kelly Oubre Jr. often draws the ire of his coach because he flashes so much skill on the defensive end but negates the potential with youthful miscues. He played 10 fewer minutes than his season average in Saturday’s game as a result.
>> The top of the Wizards’ roster might be a little better than the Raptors’ best players. On Saturday night, however, the Raptors sent a strong initial message about who they are during a 114-106 victory in Game 1 at Air Canada Centre. In short, they’re better — clearly better — than Washington, writes Jerry Brewer. These aren’t two teams striding alongside each other on the same journey. The Raptors have pulled ahead, and if you’re expecting them to slow down so the Wizards can catch up, that’s not how this is going to go. If the Wizards hope to win this series — or even become a threat to win — they will have to accelerate