Opening Statements: Rd. 1, Gm. 4 — Polished and Proud in Pursuit of History | Wizards Blog Truth About

Opening Statements: Rd. 1, Gm. 4 — Polished and Proud in Pursuit of History

Updated: April 26, 2015

[image via AP Photo/Alex Brandon]

[image via AP Photo/Alex Brandon]

“We’re still on life support. It’s not over yet.” That was Raptors head coach Dwane Casey after Game 3. “There’s no ‘give-up’ on this team,” he added.

The series is not over yet, it’s true. Game 4 must and will be played. But there’s no need to search for meaning in Casey’s CoachSpeak, or rate the rate of “give-up” among his players. The Raptors are dead. Whether they’re buried tonight, around 9 p.m., or sometime early next week, they are dead.

The upstart Wizards find themselves ahead 3-0 in a playoff series for the first time, ever, and have a chance to become one of the most decorated Wizards teams in history: In the last 35 years, Washington has won just three playoff series. A win tonight would make four—two series wins in as many years. A win tonight would also be the franchise’s first best-of-seven sweep.

John Wall has been a wrecking ball, averaging a double-double in the series, and putting up numbers that haven’t been seen in a postseason box score in nearly a decade. Wall became the first player to have more than 25 points and 15 assists in a road playoff game since Steve Nash in 2006, his MVP season. If Wall registers 15 or more dimes tonight in Game 4, he’ll be the first player to record 15 assists in three straight playoff games since John Stockton did it in 1988.

There’s this, too:

Teams: Wizards vs Raptors
Time: 6:30 p.m. EDT
Venue: Verizon Center, Washington, D.C.
Television: CSN/TNT
Radio: WNEW-FM 99.1
Spread: Wizards fav’d by 5.5 points.

Paul Pierce, stretching the Toronto defense at the 4, has been outstanding. He’s upped his scoring average to 16 points per game in the three wins against the Raptors, shooting nearly 54 percent from the field. Kyle Weidie checked the X’s and O’s and crunched the numbers in a must-read post.

(If you haven’t read it, do it right now. Seriously.)

But it’s the other much less heralded Wizards wing, Otto Porter, that has impressed and made a big-time impact on both ends of the floor. Before the series, I said it was imperative that, if absolutely nothing else, Porter hit 3s in the playoffs. He has not only shot the 3 more often, taking 2.7 per game (compared to 1.4 in the regular season), but has also connected at a better rate: Porter is hitting 50 percent of his 3s versus the Raptors.


The Wizards aren’t running plays for Porter, he’s just finding space on the perimeter. There’s plenty of it with the Raptors defense packing the paint to prevent John Wall, and Marcin Gortat (who’s shooting 70 percent from the field), from getting to the tin. Porter’s shooting touch and regular availability on the perimeter has provided a massive, dynamic shift for Washington’s offense, which produced fewer than 17 shots from 3-point range during the regular season but is attempting nearly 24 in the first round of the playoffs.

Porter isn’t the only player finding himself wide-open as a result of quick, unselfish, and productive ball movement from the Wizards. The entire team is benefiting from open looks and catch-and-shoot opportunities, as well as consistent touches in the paint.

Game 3 SportVU data

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“We’re making the sacrifices to do whatever it is to help the team win and that’s the key and that’s the reason why we have won three games,” John Wall said. “We wish we could do it for the regular season, but it’s even better to do it now when it counts the most.”

A Game 4 loss would come without consequence, but a sweep would mean the world for a group of men backed by an unspectacular history. Will the Wizards punch out the reeling Raptors and be the third team after Golden State and Cleveland to punch their ticket to the second round? Will they close the door on the past?

Yeah, probably. The Wizards have one of the more talented rosters in the NBA, which hasn’t been reflected in the 82-game standings over the past two seasons. They’re finally playing up to their potential.

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John Converse Townsend
Reporter / Writer / Co-Editor at TAI
John has been part of the editorial team at TAI since 2010. He likes: pocket passes, chase-down blocks, 3-pointers. He dislikes: typos, turnovers, midrange jump shots.