The Washington Wizards took a 3-0 series lead Friday night in a 106-99 victory over the visiting Toronto Raptors. Raptors guard-forward DeMar DeRozan scored a team playoff-record 20 points in the first quarter yet managed only 12 points thereafter, as the Wizards received a big night defensively–and offensively–from reserve forward Otto Porter.
“When Otto plays aggressive, that’s my main thing,” said Wizards Head Coach Randy Wittman postgame, regarding Porter’s aggressive play while guarding DeRozan. “I think sometimes earlier in the year–especially when he was out with the starters–he almost played like ‘I don’t want to be in the way.’ I tried to get him to understand he’s no use that way.” While Porter has not always looked great on the defensive end this season he surely demonstrated that transition to a more aggressive playstyle Friday.
In the second quarter, in a match-up against the smaller Kyle Lowry, Porter began to get frustrated. After a lack of touches, Porter started to run and post. The Wizards still did not get him the ball, but it was clear Porter wanted to exploit that match-up. Even so, Porter continued to do the little things on defense and the intangibles. When the Wizards did get Porter the ball–even if he went scoreless over the second and third quarters–they did so at the right time.
“Playoff basketball,” said Porter postgame regarding his effort, including two clutch three-pointers in the final five minutes of play. “I’m just trying to help the team win […] You get an open shot, and you take it. That’s been our thing the whole series. You get a wide open shot, knock it down with confidence. That’s what we’re trying to do.” Teammate Paul Pierce added two clutch three-pointers of his own in the final minutes of the fourth, the final acting as a dagger with 16.9 seconds left to play. At this point, with the Wizards up 105-99, the Raptors wanted to get Sixth Man of the Year Louis Williams into the game, but they couldn’t. It’s hard to say whether that mattered (he was subbed in for the final shot).
While DeRozan matched his Tuesday total of 20 points in one quarter Friday at the Verizon Center, Williams followed his 20 with only 7 points on 3-for-11 shooting. He did get one final crack at a three-pointer with 0.9 seconds left in regulation, but it’s questionable as to why Toronto did not use Williams more often.
One reason for that discrepancy might have been the play of Marcin Gortat, who finished with 24 points, 13 rebounds, 5 assists, and 4 blocks, arguably his best NBA performance to date. With Washington playing big, Toronto had less options to play small with Williams. “I’m excited I was able to help the team,” said Gortat postgame. “My teammates found me in a lot of open spots and I’m glad I was able to turn those into points.” To give you an idea of Marcin’s character, the first thing he voiced out while in the locker room, before the media huddle, was an incredulous, “I had three turnovers?” as he glanced over a printout of the final boxscore. Gortat is always one to self-criticize, a key component of a team that will look to clean up mistakes and make for a sweep come Sunday at home.
“When you win a game like this, a team has little hope coming into this game but when you win a game like this it pretty much diminishes a team’s hope when you get up to 3-0 and you have two more games at home,” said Pierce postgame. “Our focus right now is to not go back to customs.” We’ll find out if Washington can avoid crossing the U.S. border as the Wizards face the Raptors on Sunday at 6:30 p.m. ET (TNT/CSN).
Washington’s odds are pretty good, considering, in a game like this, you might end a an article without even acknowleding the effort of Drew Gooden, who played with heart and hustle, or the 19 points, 15 assists double-double performance of John Wall, who received at least three rounds of “M-V-P” chants from the incredibly loud Wizards fans who booed the Raptors, celebrity Drake, and even the Canadian National Anthem. Expect Sunday to be even louder.
GM 1: WAS at TOR, Sat., Apr. 18 | 12:30 PM ET: 93-86 W
GM 2: WAS at TOR, Tues., Apr. 21 | 8:00 PM ET: 117-106 W
GM 3: TOR at WAS, Fri., Apr. 24 | 8:00 PM ET: 106-99 W
GM 4: TOR at WAS, Sun., Apr. 26 | 6:30 PM ET TNT/CSN
GM 5: WAS at TOR, Wed., Apr. 29 | If Needed
GM 6: TOR at WAS, Fri., May 1 | If Needed
GM 7: WAS at TOR, Sun., May 3 | If Needed
NBA Series Hub: Raptors, Wizards look for momentum
Join Washington Wizards Examiner on Twitter @DCWIZ during the game.