Article Written by Jacob Pacheco (@JacobPacheco6)
“So that’s what it feels like,” is what Raptors centre Jonas Valanciunas had to say after Toronto’s first ever round one game one playoff victory in 17 long years.
The Toronto Raptors defeated the Washington Wizards 114-106 on Saturday on an ice stormy evening in Toronto. The gathering party to be held outside the Air Canada Centre - also known as “Jurassic Park” - was closed for the day due to the aforementioned poor weather. The game was even delayed an extra five minutes due to a leak from the roof which was dripping onto the court. “Let’s Go Raptors” chants roared down at the ACC in wait for this intense playoff match-up as fans couldn’t wait to see this new looked Raptors team see what they got for this year’s hopeful championship run.
Going into the game Saturday night, the Raptors were without leading bench point guard Fred VanVleet due to a shoulder injury. Although Dwane Casey doesn’t expect him to be out long-term, it is still a big loss nonetheless. And with that, the game is underway. It only took one second for the first foul of the game to be called on Wizards centre Marcin Gortat who got called for a bit of questionable loose ball foul on Valanciunas. A few minutes after, Gortat picked up his second foul as the Wizards were forced to go to their bench and Ian Mahinmi checked in.
The Raptors didn’t take long getting to the punch shortly after, going on 8-0 run quickly going up 10-4 forcing Scott Brooks to call an early timeout. Wizards came out of the timeout with a quick answer going on their own mini 4-0 run. Then the foul trouble kicked in again when Ian Mahinmi picked up two fouls with 6:40 to go in the first. This forced Scott Brooks to put in their third centre, Mike Scott, who finished the game with 14 points in 25 minutes of play. Onward we go, as Washington closed the first quarter on an 8-4 run. But despite the runs put on by both teams, the Raptors led by five behind the rookie OG Anunoby’s 8 points and two threes.
A few minutes into the second quarter, CJ Miles and Delon Wright went on to hit back-to-back-to-back threes putting up a combined 11-4 run,. This forced Washington to call another timeout with the ACC rocking. The Wizards, though, came out of the timeout firing; getting stops and making buckets, going on a 9-0 run to regain a 42-41 lead. This is the first time they’ve led since the game was 4-2 in the first quarter. Washington didn’t stop there, holding that lead all the way into halftime with the score of 59-55. Toronto's scoring efforts were largely behind Serge Ibaka’s 14 points and OG with 10. All-stars Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan were held to just seven points combined in the first 24 minutes.
But you didn’t think they’d continue to not be a factor, right? Coming out of the half DeRozan put on his own 5-0 run where he helped Toronto turn that into a 11-2 run and shooting 3/3 from three. What was a combined seven points between the two all-stars at halftime quickly turned into 15. The Raptors continued to lead throughout the quarter and held an 86-85 lead going into the fourth and final quarter in this thrilling game one. Ibaka had 21 points and 7 rebounds, and DeRozan put up 12 in the quarter leading to a combined 17 points heading into the final quarter.
The fourth quarter got underway with Lowry being the only starter on the court playing with the bench unit. Having Lowry to start the fourth deemed to be a good idea as he would drive to the rim having a one on one with Mike Scott where Scott would extend out his shoulder fouling Lowry hard as he hit the deck. The play would be reviewed and Scott picked up a flagrant foul. We also saw our first look at Lucas Nogueira which turned out to be a great decision, throwing something new at the Wizards. It made an impact right away, specifically on a Morris drive, forcing him to switch his shot due to the length of Nogueira. That defensive effort would be huge as the Raptors sprinted up the court in transition leading to a CJ Miles three. He wasn’t finished there. CJ Miles would then hit another three only seconds later as Toronto went on a quick 7-0 run as another Washington timeout was called with Toronto up 4 with 9:26 to go.
The Wizards weren’t backing down though. They come out of their timeout on a 5-0 run to now lead by one. But with 6:28 to go, the Raptors had an answer. In what was a great defending decision by Delon Wright to pressure the inbound to force a turnover. He then found Nogueira who made a quick outside pass to CJ Miles for another three, leading to another Toronto run. The ACC went crazy, to the point that you couldn’t hear the whistle. With an 8-0 run established and another Wizards timeout, the Raptors never looked back. At the 4:08 mark with the Raptors up 9, the Washington hit their first field goal of the quarter. Although it wasn’t just the lack of offense that gave away the game for Washington, but Toronto also took care of the ball extremely well in the fourth, only giving up one turnover.
With 1:40 to go and the Raptors up by 10, the crowd got up on their feet, realizing that the Toronto Raptors would finally win a round one game one playoff game in over 17 years. The Raptors held that lead and defeated the Wizards 114-106. John Wall shot 6/20 in the game, only having one assist and one field goal made in the fourth. It wasn’t easy, but Toronto will take it. Behind Serge Ibaka's double-double of 23 points and 12 rebounds, the Raptors had DeRozan’s 17 points and Delon Wright’s 18 points. Wright did a fantastic job filling in those extra minutes for Fred VanVleet who can very well be in the lineup for game two. Toronto leads the series 1-0 and play at home one more time before heading to Washington for games three and four.
Let’s hope for some better weather in Toronto in the coming days. Game two goes down Tuesday at 8 p.m.
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