Sports

Raptors simply not built to win in playoffs

By Frank Zicarelli, Toronto Sun

Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan shoots the ball as Wizards forward Drew Gooden (right) and centre Marcin Gortat try to make the block during fourth-quarter action in Game 3. (USA TODAY SPORTS/PHOTO)

Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan shoots the ball as Wizards forward Drew Gooden (right) and centre Marcin Gortat try to make the block during fourth-quarter action in Game 3. (USA TODAY SPORTS/PHOTO)

WASHINGTON - 

It may end by as early as Sunday evening or the inevitable gets delayed a few days, but one of these days the Raptors will do the unavoidable soul-searching and try to address many of the team’s deficiencies.

Finally and hopefully, fans and those making decisions with the Raptors have seen the light and have realized how this group is not built for the post-season.

In retrospect, it was a mistake last year to invest so much in pieces following the Raptors’ seven-game series to Brooklyn, viewed by many as some breakthrough moment when one play in Game 7 decided which team would advance.

Truth be told, the Nets were a favourable matchup for the Raptors — an athletic, young team with players who bonded, some of whom were playing for contracts.

Toronto would lose to Brooklyn because Toronto had no perimeter defender to contain Joe Johnson, had no proven playoff presence such as a Paul Pierce and couldn’t stop Deron Williams on nights when D-Will had it going.

Changes should have been initiated last off-season in Raptorland, changes that are certain to follow once Toronto falls to the Wizards.

Washington is built for the playoffs, though it remains to be seen how deep this group can go.

The Wizards put a scare into the Indiana Pacers last spring in the second round and there’s no reason to believe Washington can’t do it again when it likely plays Atlanta in the second round.

Like last year, the Wizards ended up as the No. 5 seed in the East, catching their stride in the opening round against the Bulls by winning the opening two games in Chicago.

This year, the Wizards looked disjointed in the second half of the season.

Following their Game 3 win Friday night, the reinvented Drew Gooden, who has become a stretch four, let the proverbial cat out of the bag.

“We kind of put everything in cruise control right before the break and after the break,’’ said the veteran.

“We weren’t showing up with the same mentality as we’re doing right now.

“It’s human nature to slip, especially at that level. We knew we clinched at a five seed and couldn’t go any lower than that. We were just patiently waiting for these playoffs to start.

“Going up 3-0 in these playoffs shows the maturity, that okay we can put it on cruise control and when it’s time to play, we can step up and get to business. We did do that.”

The Raptors thought they could pull that magical switch.

This group is incapable, some would say delusional in believing their game would elevate come playoff time, because the Raptors aren’t built for the post-season.

“I always felt we were a better team than our record showed,’’ said Pierce. “We could’ve easily been a 50-win team.

“We’re showing our growth, we’re showing our potential here in the playoffs. Where people thought of us in the first half of the season, I think people see it right now.

“We’re locked in, we’re more focused. Sometimes you’re going to have your mental lapses. The young guys are young.

“A lot of them don’t have kids, so they have good times on the road. They go out, party sometimes. That’s the way it is. I was a young guy, did those things. Sometimes, you’re not locked in the whole 82.”

Three games into the playoffs and the Wizards are locked in, matching shot for shot in the opening quarter on Friday, making all the big shots in the fourth.

Toronto would take 10 more shots than Washington in the final period, but made three fewer baskets.

Four players had at least one block for the Wizards in the game’s final 12 minutes.

The Raptors had more offensive rebounds than Washington in Game 3, but it was the Wizards who emerged with the rebounding edge for the third game in a row.

The Wizards limited the Raptors to 37.4% shooting, the second time in three games that Toronto has shot less then 40%.

“Sunday’s game is going to be harder than this,’’ Wizards head coach Randy Wittman said after his team’s Game 3 win.

““And this was by far the toughest game we’ve played.

“You play each other four times in a row, you pretty much know each other. I’m seeing some of these guys in my sleep.”

WIZARDS BENCH EXCELLED

The Raptors had more offensive rebounds than the Wizards, outscored the Wizards in second-chance points to the tune of 22-3 and forced Washington into turning the ball over a series-high 17 times leading to 18 Toronto points.
And yet the Wizards won Friday night in Game 3 to take a virtual stranglehold on the series with Game 4 Sunday night at Verizon Center.
Paul Pierce made all the big shots down the stretch, John Wall, who continues to play with a shoulder strain, became the first player since Steve Nash to post back-to-back playoff games of 15 or more assists, while Washington made 68.8% of its shots in the decisive fourth quarter.
Overlooked in Washington’s 106-99 win was its bench, a second unit that clearly outplayed and outperformed Toronto’s bench.
Greivis Vasquez and Lou Williams combined to go 4-of-16 from the field when much more needed to be summoned.
For Washington, a team that has tightened its rotation to eight players, Drew Gooden and Otto Porter stepped up big, the two combining for 23 points on 10-of-17 shooting, including 5-of-9 from beyond the arc.
In Game 1, Toronto’s bench produced 48 points in the team’s 93-86 OT loss when the Raptors’ starting frontcourt accounted for 14 points.
With their backs to the wall and with no margin for error, the Raptors don’t need to worry about extended minutes.
They tried to force the ball out of John Wall’s hands in Game 3 with aggressive traps and double teams, but Washington’s answer was to have Marcin Gortat roll to the rim as he produced a 24-point, 13-rebound night that was complemented by five assists and four blocks.

 


Reader's comments »

By adding a comment on the site, you accept our terms and conditions


Featured Businesses

Go to the Marketplace »