Opening Statements: Rd. 1, Gm. 2 — Raptors Are For The Birds | Wizards Blog Truth About

Opening Statements: Rd. 1, Gm. 2 — Raptors Are For The Birds

Updated: April 21, 2015

One of the most depressing events in recent history happened in the not-so-recent past when scientists, who spent years locked in denial, had to reveal that dinosaurs were not gigantic lizards roaming the Earth millions of years ago but were instead just a group of … giant birds. Not since Pluto lost its status as a planet had such a malaise fallen over those who had spent their childhood imagining their 2nd grade teacher being devoured by a Tyrannosaurus rex. Dinosaurs, as large reptiles, inspire a base fear and fascination in those who study them. Large birds? Not so much.

Velociraptors were one of the hardest hit by the revelation that dinosaurs were much less “Jurassic Park” in their appearance and more “Sesame Street.” You remember trembling in fear at the thought of a raptors chasing you down in pack formation, cruelly dismembering their prey. You were basically being chased by tiny, super fast T. Rexes that had a piranha-like mentality. The newer, scientifically correct version was as scary as visualizing getting chased down by an ostrich.


[Very Frightening.]


[Not so much.]


So perhaps Paul Pierce, who witnessed the Jurassic Period firsthand, was on to something when he declared that the Toronto Raptors did not have the “It” factor to frighten teams in the playoffs. Most put it down to Pierce being a troll—a man  looking to take the onus of a notoriously rowdy Toronto crowd onto his own shoulders and away from his younger, less-seasoned teammates, John Wall and Bradley Beal. However, what was forgotten amidst all the pixels spilled over Pierce’s outburst were his many course credits in paleontology during his time at Kansas and his up-to-date subscription to “National Geographic.” If Paul Pierce knows one thing, he knows his dinosaurs.

Following the Wizards OT victory in Toronto, it is difficult to be frightened of a Raptors team that misfired throughout Saturday afternoon. Kyle Lowry was 2-for-10 from the field and fouled out in regulation. DeMar DeRozan went an abominable 6-for-20 and almost shot the Raptors out of the game. Even noted Wizards-killer Lou Williams was a tepid 4-for-16 from the field and looked less like a wrathful god and more like a man determined to go down shooting—damning all consequences and the involvement of teammates. It took the full impact of some terrible Randy Wittman playcalling (going away from Paul Pierce) and clutch performances from Greivis Vasquez and Amir Johnson for the Raptors to claw their way back into game, a solution that would appear unstable at best going forward throughout the rest of the series.

And yet.

And yet…


[The Birds!]

If we were honest, birds are terrifying. Their soulless little eyes, sharp beaks, and talons—and the fact that they can fly—inspire nightmares. As anyone who has been assaulted by a seagull at the beach or chased down by an angry swan at the park, it isn’t just the fact that these descendants of reptiles are alien in all ways, it is also the fact that it is embarrassing to admit that you likely had to flee in terror lest you be pecked to death.

Even after a “convincing” Game 1 victory, the Wizards should be terrified of the Toronto Raptors. Because so many facets of their offense were off it is unlikely that the Wizards can hope for another extended dry spell from the Lowry/DeRozan/Williams triumvirate. Shooting 6-for-29 from behind the arc is not going to happen again versus the Wizards’ porous perimeter defense.Nor is it likely that the Wizards can expect the same production from the more maligned portions of their own bench, the offensive output (and well-intended) defensive effort of the likes of Kevin Seraphin was a welcome surprise, but counting on a repeat performance would be mining for fool’s gold. The postseason, as the sages note, is won by the stars, and neither team’s glittering backcourt has made their presence felt as of yet.

The Wizards will likely approach Game 2 in the same manner they entered into Game 1, grind out the Raptors on the boards and hang their hats on a defensive intensity that is more permissible in the postseason. They have to hope that they stole the first game in Toronto—losing Marcin Gortat early to foul trouble and having experienced an unexpected performance lapse for the Wall/Beal duo. Moreover, Washington needs to hope that Toronto remains cold, because there is nothing more terrifying than a flock of bird-reptiles raining down daggers from behind the arc.

Game 2 Prediction: Raptors 102 – Wizards 101

Teams: Wizards at Raptors
Time: 8:00 p.m. EDT
Venue:  Toronto, Ontario,Canada
Television: CSN+/NBATV
Radio: WFED-AM 1500/WNEW-FM 99.1
Spread: DinoDrakes fav’d by 5 points.

Three Things to Note.

#1) It was all great until it wasn’t.
Randy Wittman used his roster masterfully in Game 1, up until the point that he forgot his own tenets of offense. Wittman’s use of his subs was superlative, as he got positive contributions from his entire bench and also unleashed Paul Pierce at the 4, a move that was met by this writer with criticism, but paid off in spades. However, Wittman more or less came undone in the fourth quarter, inexplicably not calling the number of the player who had given Wizards a lead, but instead allowing an ice-cold John Wall to continue jacking up jump shots. It was as if Wittman had not been present for the Flip Saunders “go with the hot hand” years (a philosophy to which he ascribes) and instead was merely calling randoms plays out as he could remember them as he watched the Wizards lead slowly shrink towards nothing.

#2) Rolling on the Pick.
Marcin Gortat was relatively quiet in the first game as early foul trouble and the Wizards success in going small kept him pinioned to the bench. More concerning however were Gortat’s decisions on the pick-and-roll in the first game as he twice refused to finish at the basket and instead put up a floater or elsewise dumped it off to a teammate. Gortat set 11 screens for John Wall in Game 1, but produced just 0.33 Points Per Possession, nowhere near good enough, in any game. Gortat has a favorable matchup in Jonas Valanciunas, who is a step slow in rotating on defense and can be easily up-faked in the post. For the Wizards to win the series, they need the Polish Machine  to be more proactive and productive in the post and take advantage of the mismatch presented.

#3) Otto Glasses.
A definite to watch as Porter’s goggles appear to have been weighing the young Hoya to the floor with a bizarre gravitational force these past two years. Without the goggles, Porter appeared faster than everyone not named John Wall on the court.


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Sean Fagan
Reporter / Writer/Gadfly at TAI
Based in Brooklyn, NY, Sean has contributed to TAI since the the dawn of Jan Vesely and has been on the Wizards beat since 2008. His work has been featured on ESPN, Yahoo and He still believes that Mike Miller never got a fair shot.