Paul Pierce made a comment saying that the Raptors did not have "It". It turns out he was right--they don't have "It." What did "It" turn out to be? A win in this series. Despite coming in as heavy underdogs throughout many circles and looking like a lost cause, the Wizards turned their offense inside out and made history defeating the Raptors 125(!)-94.
John Wall and the Washington Wizards made franchise history by sweeping this Raptors team that allegedly said they wanted to play the Wizards in the playoffs and seemed to be extremely confident at the start of the series. They broke a streak of 36 straight years without a sweep in a seven game series. Let's put that in perspective a bit.
The Wizards' last sweep was in the 1977-78 season where they swept the Atlanta Hawks in the first round in a three game series. Elvin Hayes, Wes Unseld and Bob Dandridge were suiting up in Bullets unis that year. Current Lakers' GM Mitch Kupchak was also apart of that team.
The Wizards had the longest streak of not sweeping a team in the playoffs according to J Michael of CSN Washington. The next two closest team are the Sacramento Kings and the Denver Nuggets with streaks of 31 and 30 respectively. Not that a clean sweep should be a goal, but it's great to see the Wizards do this in such a dominant fashion.
All Drake jokes aside, and believe me, I'll keep them coming, this win is enormous for the Washington Wizards' franchise. The Wizards came into this series as the road team underdog, losing six of the last seven games against this team in the regular season. They finished the season with a 17-23 record and were battling injuries throughout the second half of the season. The only real question we can ask is how the hell did we get here?
Well, the Wizards took the last couple of weeks in the season to get guys like Wall, Paul Pierce and Nene healthy. This is the healthiest this team has been since the first half of the season. Though everyone has their nicks, bumps and bruises, it helps to be healthy heading into the big dance.
Another reason is that Wittman pulled out his big trump card--Paul Pierce at the 4. This was something discussed at length throughout the season and our own Umair Kahn called for Wittman to do it before the series started. Wittman does it, and like always with Umair, he hit the nail right on the head. The Raptors didn't know how to handle it and we saw plenty of minutes going to the exclusive postseason lineup of Wall-Beal-Porter-Pierce-Gortat.
Finally, the Wizards completely flipped the script on offense and the Raptors just weren't ready for it. We detailed it a bit here, but the Wizards shifted their offense from being centered on the midrange game and taking those inefficient shots to shooting from the best areas on the floor and generating blistering transition offense. The strategy of taking what the defense is giving hasn't changed, but the Raptors gave the Wizards the best looks they've had all season.
All of this morphed together to create the perfect storm and has the Wizards lined up as one of the most dominant teams on both ends this postseason. Keep that in mind as we move forward. Here are three things we need to pay attention to in the next series.
Will we continue to see Paul Pierce at the 4?
The playoffs is about saving your best hand for last, but the Wizards are in a situation where they have to win each and every game. Paul Pierce is clearly their best option at the power forward position right now, even if the only reason is that teams haven't seen it. There will be a bit of film on the Wizards lineups with Pierce at the power forward spot, but not enough to where they'll be able to easily handle it.
No matter who they play, there will be an adjustment to this lineup. The only questions here are whether the Wizards will remain committed to it and whether they'll try to find different ways to make it work.
Will Otto Porter continue to play the way he has?
Porter struggled to solidify a spot in the Wizards rotation throughout the regular season, but he has been a plus-minus monster for the Wizards throughout the postseason. With the exception of this game, Porter has been a +21.7 for the Wizards with an offensive rating of 111.1 and that mark will only increase after the decimation of these dinosaurs.
Porter still isn't the greatest shooter, but he's been able to make himself a threat between his cutting and his rebounding and his shot has been dropping. He took on the defensive assignment of guarding DeMar DeRozan and locked him down. Porter has been the Wizards' X-factor and has been one of their best five players throughout this postseason. If Porter continues to play this way, the Wizards will be a tough out for anyone.
Can John Wall keep up his play?
John Wall has been the difference maker we all know he can be in these playoffs. He's leading the NBA in assists this postseason, has consistently pushed the ball in transition and is attacking the rim like a madman. Aside from Chris Paul and Stephen Curry there hasn't been a point guard who has been on par with Wall this postseason and there is a case to be made for him even with those two.
If Wall keeps up this play, the Wizards are going to be tough to beat for any team. Lets hope he can keep it up and take the Wizards to the Eastern Conference Finals.