John Wall and Bradley Beal push around Raptors, help Wizards take 2-0 series lead


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.

PBT Extra matchups to watch: Spurs look for ways to contain Chris Paul


It was hard to pick one key matchup to watch in the Spurs vs. Clippers first round matchup, there are so many good ones. Like the coming effort by Gregg Popovich to get in DeAndre Jordan’s head.

But if the Spurs are going to win Game 2 it has to start with the head of the Clippers’ snake — Chris Paul. CP3 put up 32 points and completely controlled the flow of the game in the series opener.

Expect to see a lot more Kawhi Leonard (and Danny Green) on Paul from the start, and a lot less Tony Parker.


Lou Williams wins Sixth Man of the Year


Isaiah Thomas, Jamal Crawford and Lou Williams were the only eligible players to average at least 15 points per game.

Unsurprisingly, they filled the top three of Sixth Man of the Year voting.

But it was Williams, who ranked third with 15.5 points per game, who took the award.

Here’s the full voting with player, team (first-place votes, second-place votes, third-place votes, points):

1. Lou Williams, Toronto (78-34-10-502)

2. Isaiah Thomas, Boston (33-46-21-324)

3. Jamal Crawford, L.A. Clippers (8-18-37-131)

4. Andre Iguodala, Golden State (7-16-17-100)

5. Tristan Thompson, Cleveland (0-6-15-33)

6. Nikola Mirotic, Chicago (1-4-7-24)

7. Marreese Speights, Golden State (1-2-9-20)

9. Corey Brewer, Houston (1-1-4-12)

9. Manu Ginobili, San Antonio (0-3-3-12)

10. Taj Gibson, Chicago (1-0-3-8)

11. Aaron Brooks, Chicago (0-0-1-1)

11. Chris Kaman, Portland (0-0-1-1)

11. Anthony Morrow, Oklahoma City (0-0-1-1)

11. Dennis Schröder, Atlanta (0-0-1-1)

Williams was a strong candidate, and three of the four of us put him on our hypothetical ballots, including Kurt Helin slotting him at the top. Williams often took over the Raptors’ offense, especially late in games and quarters, and made plays. He wasn’t the most efficient, but Toronto often didn’t put him in position to be.

From top to bottom of this list, there are no egregious choices. I’d have a tough time ranking some of these players a top-three reserve this season, but at least they’re all pretty good and in a reasonable order.

That said, am I the only one who would have voted for Rudy Gobert, even if it’s just on a technicality?

Matt Barnes flings Aron Baynes into crowd fighting over ball (video)


Blake Griffin wasn’t the only Clipper to make Aron Baynes look foolish in Game 1.

Matt Barnes showed his toughness while tangling with the Spurs center.

Gregg Popovich, after rejecting too many ‘unbelievable’ questions, issues statement instead (video)


Gregg Popovich surely wasn’t in the best mood after the Spurs’ Game 1 loss to the Clippers, and the questions he faced in his postgame press conference certainly didn’t improve his demeanor.

“How much did DeAndre Jordan affect everything you did offensively in the first half tonight?” is a perfectly fine question, but Popovich often does not respond well to indefinite “How much?” questions. This is poor scouting of his subject by the reporter, but this question would have been fine for any other NBA coach.

How intentionally fouling a player allows his team’s defense to set for the ensuing possession is an under-discussed aspect of the strategy, one Popovich frequently employs, especially against Jordan. It’s a good topic to discuss with the Spurs coach, but asking Popovich a yes/no question isn’t going to get anywhere. Neither is a yes/no follow-up.

“Coach, there seemed to be some good ball movement with your team a lot of times. There were some other times where they seemed erratic or out of control.  Could you talk about that please?” That reporter already has his story written and wants to plug in a quote in his section about passing. He’s not trying to learn anything. He just wants a quote. If any question deserved Popovich’s scorn, it was this one, and this is the one that caused him to offer a statement.

Surprisingly, his statement — not shown in the above video — was full of helpful information about the game.

Popovich, via ASAP Sports:

The game was‑‑ their defense was better than our offense.  That’s the bottom line.  Their aggressiveness, their physicality, their athleticism really hurt us offensively.  The first half I actually felt decent at halftime.  We missed six free throws, gave up 13 points off turnovers and it was a six‑point game.  We shot 3 for 14 from three, and I thought, for playing that poorly we were in the game.
Then they had that run, but I thought it was their defense, not just Jordan.  He’s part of their defense, but I thought everybody did a great job.  Perimeter‑wise they denied in passing lanes, they got up into us.  You know, we still had a good number of assists, but their close‑outs on our threes, all that sort of thing, was better than our offense tonight, and that was the bottom line for the game.  We obviously missed a lot of free throws but they did, too.  Neither team shot well from the line.  Does that help?

Popovich took more questions after that, interrupting one and acting incredulous about another. (Both were fine questions.)

This is his shtick, and he clearly enjoys it.

He could have answered the first question about Jordan. He knew what the reporter discussing hack-a-Jordan was getting at, and he could have filled in the gaps. He could have appeased the third reporter with a bland quote. He could have treated the reporters who asked questions after his statement with more respect.

Most coaches, if not every other one, would have. Popovich is different, so we get press conferences like this.