Key Legislature: Wizards 93 at Raptors 86 — Paul Pierce Found "It" | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Key Legislature: Wizards 93 at Raptors 86 — Paul Pierce Found “It”

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Updated: April 19, 2015

Truth About It.net’s Key Legislature: a quick run-down and the game’s defining moment(s)
for Washington Wizards playoff Game 1 versus the Raptors in Toronto
via Rashad Mobley (@rashad20) from the District.

washington wizards, toronto raptors, paul pierce, playoffs, game 1, truth about it, canada, nba playoffs, 2015

DC Council Key Legislature

by Rashad Mobley.

To truly understand the significance of Paul Pierce’s performance against the Toronto Raptors in Game 1 of this series, it is necessary to take a few steps back to the last several weeks of the season. As Sean Fagan observed in TAI’s pregame roundtable, Pierce’s minutes and production had dwindled to Otto Porter levels—not exactly the kind of play the Wizards wanted down the stretch from a guy who, for all intents and purposes, was brought to Washington to replace Trevor Ariza. When the television cameras cut to Pierce on the sideline during that time, he appeared disinterested and frustrated with his team’s play.

Earlier this week, Pierce’s interview with Jackie MacMullan for ESPN.com went live. He was quite candid about his teammates, past and present, and he also attempted to size up the Toronto Raptors by saying they lacked an “it” factor.  He later clarified his comments in an attempt to alter the perception that he had been dismissive of the team from Canada, but it didn’t really work. Given that Pierce had not exactly put forth a quality performance on the court prior, it seemed highly peculiar that he would voluntarily thrust himself in the spotlight with the largest of bull’s-eyes. But he did and the Raptors—from the GM, to the players to the fans—took notice.

Pierce’s first-quarter performance was reminiscent of his play the last month of the season. In 9:42 of play, he took just two shots (two fewer than any other starter), he was the only starter who did not score, and he was a non-factor on defense. The crowd booed every time he even breathed on the ball, and it appeared that Pierce would not be able to summon the magic he had created against Toronto just one year ago. Then, the magical Pierce-at-4 experiment began.

With 7:14 left in the second quarter, Wall came in for Drew Gooden, Marcin Gortat subbed in for Seraphin, and Pierce entered the game for Ramon Sessions. Wall ran the point, Bradley Beal was the 2-guard, Otto Porter took Pierce’s spot on the wing, Pierce shifted over to the 4, and Gortat was the man in the middle. The score was 34-29 in the Raptors’ favor and Pierce was scoreless at the time. That would not be the case by quarter’s end.

Pierce scored 10 points in the 5:47 of the second quarter he was on the floor and, by halftime, the Wizards led 46-42. Pierce hit wide-open shots, shots with a high degree of difficulty (and a high degree of old-man spin), 2s and 3s. The crowd not only stopped booing but became barely audible as the man they’d took such pleasure in taunting was now the main reason their beloved Raptors trailed after two quarters of basketball. Pierce was no longer an aging, faded superstar who looked and played like his productive years were gone, but he looked like a hungry veteran yearning to bask in the playoff glow once again.

Pierce only scored five points in the second half, but it wasn’t a result of cooling off or losing his touch. He simply did not get the ball. Pierce took just three shots in the third quarter, and he did not shoot the ball at all in the eight minutes he played during the fourth quarter. During one fourth quarter possession, John Wall opted not to pass to a wide-open Pierce, but instead made a difficult jump pass to Bradley Beal, who dribbled in the lane and turned the ball over. Even on the regulation-ending play, John Wall held the ball until there were just a few seconds left on the clock, then took a fadeaway J, while Pierce looked on. NBA TV’s Isiah Thomas did not understand the logic:

“Even if the coach calls the play for you at the end of the game you gotta know that Pierce is hot and give it [the ball] to Pierce.”

Wall took and missed the first shot of overtime, but on the next possession, Pierce hit a 3-pointer to give the Wizards a three-point lead. Randy Wittman credited that Pierce 3-pointer with giving the Wizards momentum early in that overtime period. Pierce scored five of the Wizards’ 11 overtime points and had a key block of Amir Johnson with 1:02 left, which prevented the Raptors from making it a one-possession game. He also sealed the game for the Wizards by calmly hitting two free throws to put his team up nine points.

After the game, Pierce said all the things one would expect to hear from a player who has already been to that elusive promised land called the NBA Finals. He uttered the “one game at a time” platitude, he spoke on the importance of stealing games on the road, and he charmed media by telling them that, despite his villain status, he wasn’t that bad of a guy.

J.A. Adande, who was the sideline reporter for ESPN during the game, had this to say about Pierce:

Pierce was not the only reason the Wizards were victorious in Game 1. Beal carried the team in the fourth quarter, Nene caught the rebounding bug with a season-high 13 boards in 21 minutes, the bench was led by strong play from Drew Gooden (six points and 10 rebounds) and Kevin Seraphin (10 points in 16 minutes). But the Wizards were disjointed offensively, and like they did so frequently during the regular season, the team blew a 14-point lead in the fourth quarter and they were a missed tip-in from Terrence Ross away from a regulation-time loss. But the “it” factor in Game 1, and the reason why the Wizards were victorious, was the play of Paul Pierce. He may pull a disappearing act over the remainder of the series, and Raptors Coach Dwane Casey will surely watch the tape and make adjustments for the Pierce-at-the 4 lineup. But on this playoff Saturday, when he had to both inspire his team and walk the walk after talking the talk to Jackie MacMullan, Pierce was indeed the Truth.

 

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Rashad Mobley
Reporter/Writer at TAI
Rashad has been covering the NBA and the Washington Wizards since 2008—his first two years were spent at Hoops Addict before moving to Truth About It. Rashad has appeared on ESPN and college radio, SportsTalk on NewsChannel 8 in Washington D.C., and his articles have appeared on ESPN TrueHoop, USAToday.com, Complex Magazine, and the DCist. He considers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar a hero and he had the pleasure of interviewing him back in 2009.