Wizards try to get back in series with Raptors
WASHINGTON -- The name of the arena has changed since the last time the Toronto Raptors visited the Washington Wizards in the playoffs.
That is not all.
Three years after getting swept by the Wizards in the first round of the playoffs -- with the final two games coming at then Verizon Center -- the Raptors roll into Capital One Arena on Friday night with a 2-0 edge in the best-of-seven series.
"We had some tough experiences out there, especially in the playoffs, right?" Jonas Valanciunas told the Toronto Sun after Thursday's practice.
In 2015, the No. 5 Wizards -- led by veteran Paul Pierce -- pulled off a what was a mild upset of the No. 4 Raptors, closing out the series with a 31-point rout.
This time out, the No. 8 Wizards, who played a large chunk of the season without point guard John Wall, were again thought capable of upsetting the now top-seeded Raptors, but haven't shown evidence of that.
Toronto, meanwhile, appears comfortable being the hunted and are up 2-0 in a playoff series for the first time in their history.
"A few years ago, we had to have that (underdog) mentality, that chip on our shoulder mentality, or else," Raptors coach Dwane Casey told the Toronto Globe and Mail. "So we're growing, I think our guys are developing a mental toughness that you have to have to be the favorite."
The Raptors ensured the Wizards wouldn't steal a game in Toronto by exploiting Washington's defense for seven 3-pointers and 44 points in the first quarter of Tuesday night's 130-119 victory. Washington, which trailed by as many as 23, pulled within 113-108 in fourth quarter before Toronto unleashed a 19-4 run.
DeMar DeRozan scored a career postseason-best 37 points on 14-of-23 shooting as Toronto shot 51.7 percent from the floor. Valanciunas added 19 points and 14 rebounds.
"We are shooting ourselves in the foot coming out to slow starts, allowing guys to get open threes, allowing guys to get those shots, allowing guys to get layups," Bradley Beal told the Washington Post. "It has to be one or the other. We can't give up 3s and layups, or we're going to be down 20 in the first quarter."
One bright spot for the Wizards was reserve Mike Scott, who had 20 points off the bench and was on the floor when Washington rallied.
Down 2-0, Washington coach Scott Brooks may opt to go with the 6-foot-8 Scott in place of 6-11 Marcin Gortat, who has struggled at both ends thus far.
"When we go small, Mike's a guy that can shoot from the 3, and then they switch smalls on him, he can definitely score in the post," Wall said.
The move could increase the inside advantage for a Toronto team that outrebounded Washington 48-34 in Game 2.
The Wizards could also use more offense from Beal, who is 11 of 28 in two games.
"That's a little bit on him, a little bit on me, a little bit on John (Wall). We need him," Wizards coach Scott Brooks told the Globe and Mail. "We're going to have trouble beating this team if he's not going to play better. And he will."
Washington did not enjoy a strong home-court advantage this season, posting a 23-18 record at Capital One Arena, but Casey is ready for the worst.
"It's going to be a hostile environment," Casey told the Globe and Mail. "They're going to be playing in a desperate mode, we've got to continue to be hungry, we've got to continue to go in with a fighter's mentality to start the game as we did at home."
Updated April 20, 2018