The Toronto Raptors have jumped out to a 2-0 lead in a playoff series for the first time in franchise history, rollicking to the club’s highest-scoring postseason game, 130-119 over the Washington Wizards.
After Toronto’s all-star backcourt was double-teamed and limited in Game 1, DeMar DeRozan led the Raptors with 37 points on Tuesday, while Kyle Lowry had 13 points and 12 assists. Jonas Valanciunas contributed 19 points and grabbed 14 rebounds. C.J. Miles added 18 points -- including four three-pointers.
Washington star John Wall had 29 points and nine assists, but his fellow all-star backcourt mate Bradley Beal had just nine points on 3-of-11 shooting. Michael Scott added 20 points.
Toronto coach Dwane Casey had been preaching for three days that he didn’t want his Raptors basking in all the compliments coming their way since winning their opening playoff game for the first time ever. “We can’t fall for it,” said Casey, who was celebrating his 61st birthday on Tuesday.
After the game, Casey was hardly celebrating the second straight win. He wasn’t happy that his Raptors let a big lead momentarily slip away in the second half, that they’d watched Wall glide past them, and that his NBA-leading bench hadn’t played up to standards.
“Our second unit has gotta come in with a sense of urgency and some toughness that they’ve shown all year,” said Casey. “We can’t run up the minutes for our starters extensively. They had some good moments but not enough.”
The Raps’ big scoring started right off the jump Tuesday night. DeRozan exploded for 13 first-quarter points. OG Anunoby was producing offensively and sticking to Beal (even though the Wizards star was having a poor shooting night). Valanciunas was all over the floor – finger rolls, blocked shots, and yes, his first playoff three-pointer.
Wall and Beal each picked up two early fouls which sent them to the bench early. By the end of the first quarter, a rout seemed to be on between the top-seeded Raptors and No.8-seeded Wizards. The Raps rolled to a 44-27 lead after their highest-scoring quarter in franchise playoff history.
The Wizards had vowed to better defend the Raptors beyond the arc on Tuesday after allowing the home team to drain a franchise-high 16 of them in Game 1. Yet just 12 minutes into the game, the Raps had already hit seven of them. Instead of looking like a team desperate to even the series, the Wiz looked in the first half like a squad already booking vacation plans.
There were a couple of bright lights for Washington at the time. Ty Lawson made his first appearance of the series for the Wizards off the bench, providing defensive energy and dishing out a boat load of assists. Scott came in and contributed some desperately-needed scoring.
But Valanciunas had a double-double by half-time, DeRozan and C.J. Miles had already each hit a trio of three-pointers, Lowry had already dished out seven assists, and the Raps had held Wall and Beal to a combined 13 points on 4-of-11 shooting.
So the Raptors’ next milestone was notched by half-time – their highest-scoring half in club playoff history – 76 points. That crushed the Raptors’ previous record of 63 they’d scored in the second half of Game 7 versus the Miami Heat back in 2016.
The Raps took an 18-point lead into the locker room, and they’d already used 12 different players – including Fred Van Vleet, who would play just three minutes Tuesday, easing back in as his injured shoulder continues to heal.
The second half began with Washington’s stars looking determined to end the embarrassment. Wall, Beal and Otto Porter Jr. spearheaded an 8-2 run. Wall was showing the blow-by speed and creative scoring that have made him an all-star.
Meanwhile, Toronto missed all seven three-point attempts in the third quarter, and looked out of sorts. They were outscored 32-24, as the Wiz narrowed the Raps’ lead to 10 going into the fourth.
The loud and festive atmosphere inside the Air Canada Centre began to get quiet and tense as the Wiz kept storming. Suddenly a game Toronto once led by 23 had become an unnervingly close five-point contest. Then Toronto’s starters turned it up again to fight off the surge, including 10 points from DeRozan.
“DeMar’s an unbelievable player, all-NBA, an MVP-calibre player,” said Lowry, rhyming off his best friend’s stellar stats for the night. “Every year I’ve been with him he’s continued to get better. If I’m not shooting the ball well, it doesn’t matter. He held it down for our team.”
Toronto would finish with 13 three-pointers and use all 13 guys on the roster.
Washington Coach Scott Brooks called out Beal for his poor play so far and bet there is better Beal to come in this series.
“That’s a little bit on him, a little bit on me, a little bit on John [Wall]. We need him,” said Brooks. “We’re going to have trouble beating this team if he’s not going to play better. And he will.”
The series now shifts to Washington for Games 3 and 4, scheduled for Friday and Sunday.