When the game was hanging in the balance, Paul Pierce hit back-to-back three pointers, then ran around the phone booth — what is officially the Verizon Center in our nation’s capital — high fiving the fans and yelling, “That’s why I am here.”
For more than three quarters, it was Marcin Gortat (24 points, 13 rebounds) and the John Wall focused Wizards making enough plays to keep the Raptors just in the rear view mirror. But in the end it was a pair of Otto Porter threes followed by a pair of Pierce threes — “That’s why I am here” — that lifted the Wizards past the Raptors 106-99.
Washington is now up 3-0 in the series and can close it out Sunday at home. No team in NBA history has come from 3-0 down to win a series. And this is the first time in Wizards’ franchise history they have been up 3-0 in a series.
Once again, the Raptors were the aggressor early, with DeMar DeRozan putting up 20 points in the first quarter and Toronto going up by 10.
And once again the Raptors defense could not hold that lead. The Wizards battled back to lead in the second quarter then held on until the fourth quarter based on a lot of Gortat and John Wall (who had 19 points on 5-of15).
The Raptors would not go quietly, and behind 32 from DeRozan and 15 from Kyle Lowry on the night they battled back to take the lead. That said, those two combined for 51 of the Raptors 99 shots on the night, and for the Wizards they will live with those two taking more than half the Raptors’ shots.
But in the end it was consecutive threes from Otto Porter followed by consecutive threes from Pierce that proved to be too much. Pierce had 11 of his 18 points in the fourth quarter.
The Wizards had impressive stretches behind their quality defense during the regular season, but they could not sustain it, mostly because their conventional offense was defendable. It was two bigs inside and a lot of Wall. In the playoffs, Randy Whittman has finally started to play Porter and Pierce together, with Pierce as the four, and that has given the Wizards great spacing and shooting. Toronto has had no answer.
Come Sunday, Raptors fans will gather in Jurrasic Park in Toronto, and one of the best fan bases in the NBA will cheer on their team.
But it likely will be for the final time this season.
The Wizards are moving on. That’s the Truth.