The Wizards turned an early 10-point deficit into an 11-point halftime lead, and Bradley Beal had a message for the Raptors:
“They think that we’re some punks. They think that they can push around,” Beal said. “But we’re not rolling.”
Beal backed up his words in the fourth quarter, going out of his way to throw a shoulder into Kyle Lowry while they ran up court. The ref called a double technical, and Lowry held up his arms in protest.
“I didn’t do anything,” Lowry said. “I didn’t do anything.”
No, Lowry didn’t. But Washington – which started hostilities with Paul Pierce’s “it” comment – sure is doing something.
The Wizards – led by John Wall (26 points and 17 assists) and Beal (28 points) beat the Raptors, 117-106, Tuesday to take a 2-0 series lead. For the second straight year, Washington has begun the playoffs with consecutive road wins.
Now, the Raptors are on the defensive, where they really struggle.
After a slow start that included settling for too many mid-range jumpers, the Wizards moved – both the ball and themselves without it – better and pushed the pace to generate efficient offense. Wall (whose scoring and passing numbers are unmatched in a playoff game since Chris Paul in 2008) dictated everything, and Beal played the high-scoring sidekick.
Pierce (10 points) spaced the floor, especially in his minutes at power forward. Otto Porter (15 points on 6-of-8 shooting and nine rebounds) stepped up, and Marcin Gortat (16 points, eight rebounds and three blocks).
The Wizards look like a complete package.
The Raptors, on the other hand, were too often missing their most important piece: Lowry.
Toronto actually outscored Washington by nine points when the All-Star point guard played, but he was limited to just 26 minutes by foul trouble and a leg injury that knocked him out midway through the fourth quarter. It’s unclear whether Lowry will return for Game 3 Friday, and the injury was obviously just tough luck. But, in a tightly officiated game, Lowry was too sloppy with reaching and getting himself into foul trouble.
The Raptors just don’t have the margin of error to play without Lowry, because their defense is dismal. Once the Wizards stopped settling, they torched Toronto – and that’s not something than will be fixed by Friday. Only the Nets reached the playoffs with a worse defense than the Raptors.
Still, Toronto showed heart. After falling behind by 23 in the fourth quarter, the Raptors fought back through most of the final period.
But unlike Game 1, when Washington blew a 15-point fourth-quarter lead before winning in overtime, the Wizards hung on in regulation. This was not passive end, though.
Washington has sent its message.