In advance of a home playoff game against the Brooklyn Nets last season, Raptors GM Masai Ujiri screamed “F— Brooklyn” into a microphone at a fan rally outside the arena.
The league deemed this inappropriate, and doled out a slap-on-the-wrist fine of $25,000.
A year later, it seems as though Ujiri has not learned his lesson.
Paul Pierce of the Wizards was quoted as saying that the Raptors “don’t have the ‘It’ that makes you feel worried.”
Ujiri’s response, (along with some “F— Paul Pierce” chants from the assembled masses):
The league may or may not see fit to fine Ujiri once more, but either way, his enthusiasm is good for the game, and the Raptors fan base undoubtedly agrees.
Raptors: 48-33 (4th place in Eastern Conference)
Wizards: 46-36 (5th place in Eastern Conference)
Toronto won the regular season series 3-0.
Raptors: 108.1 points scored per 100 possessions (3rd in NBA); 104.8 points allowed per 100 possessions (23rd in NBA).
Wizards: 101.9 points scored per 100 possessions (19th in NBA); 100.0 points allowed per 100 possessions (5th in NBA).
THREE KEYS TO THE SERIES
Does offense win, or does defense: The Wizards struggle to score at times, and the Raptors can’t stop anybody. John Wall was second in the league in assists behind only Chris Paul, so he knows how to distribute when the defense takes the ball out of his hands. It’s unclear if Toronto will be able to slow Wall or Bradley Beal, but if the Wizards backcourt runs wild on the suspect defense of the Raptors, home court advantage could disappear in one of the first two games of the series.
Paul Pierce: After averaging just 5.6 points on 32 percent shooting over his last 10 games of the regular season (via NBA.com’s John Schuhmann), it’s worth wondering why Pierce is running his mouth. “We haven’t done particularly well against Toronto, but I don’t feel they have the ‘It’ that makes you worried,” he said, which caused DeMar DeRozan to fire back before the playoff matchups were finalized. “Paul Pierce has always gotta say something. Just let him talk. I could care less what he said. He’d just better hope Chicago wins (against Atlanta) or whatever has got to happen so he won’t see what ‘It’ is.” Rhetoric aside, the Wizards are going to need Pierce to be more of a factor to be able to consistently compete in this series.
Raptors bench: Toronto’s second-most used lineup features Lou Williams, Greivis Vasquez, Patrick Patterson, James Johnson and Tyler Hansbrough. While not a murderer’s row of household names, this group managed to post a net rating of +17.7 in 229 minutes on the season (via SI.com). The Wizards are not a deep team, and things get thin for them pretty fast once they need to insert the reserves. This could be a real advantage for Toronto in the series, and will remain something to watch.
Neither of these teams have looked all that capable for the bulk of the second half of the season, but Wall is the best player in this series, so I’ll look to him to find a way to get the job done.
Wizards in 7.
Wednesday night was supposed to be easy for Brooklyn: They were the desperate playing for their playoff lives, and Brooklyn was facing an Orlando team that was just waiting to make tee times. Besides, the Magic weren’t very good anyway (the Nets had 12 more wins coming in).
It wasn’t easy.
With just more than 9 minutes left in the game Orlando led 82-81.
But the Nets responded with a 17-4 run at that point and pulled away in the fourth quarter behind a career-high 28 points from rookie Bojan Bogdanovic.
The win puts the pressure on Indiana, which has to beat Memphis to secure the eighth and final playoff seed in the East. If not, Brooklyn will be back in the postseason thanks to this victory.
Former Net now Wizard Paul Pierce questioned the toughness of Brooklyn veterans such as Deron Williams (10 points, 7 assists) and Joe Johnson (16 points on 15 shots), it was the European rookie who was key. Bogdanovic hit 12-of-17 shots, was 4-of-8 from three and was a +19 on the night.
Those veterans made plays, too, and the Nets played some defense when it mattered. Once the Magic took that 82-81 lead in the fourth, they didn’t score another point for 4:43. Meanwhile Johnson hit a running jumper; Williams got to the bucket for a layup, then Johnson hit a couple jumpers, one a three, and the Nets has pulled away.
You can say the Nets should have more than 38 wins with their league-high payroll of more than $88 million ($7 million more than second-place Cleveland), but they will take the playoff ticket if they can get it.