The Toronto Raptors ended their 10-game losing streak in Game 1 of playoffs openers when they handled their business on Saturday afternoon and beat the Washington Wizards, 114-106.at the Air Canada Centre. It's a straightforward strategy that had created long, hard playoff series for the Raptors, even when they did eventually move on to the next round, and had allowed the Cleveland Cavaliers to defeat them in each of the last two years. The Raptors had struggled to get started in series in the playoffs in the franchise's history, and in their recent history, slowing down their All-Star backcourt had been the recipe for success for opponents.
The main question heading into the playoffs was whether these Raptors had done enough to earn another reset: one of the expectations of the team's ceiling in the postseason.
Raptors coach Dwane Casey said his team, the top seed in the Eastern Conference, is focused on more than Game 1.
"One of the league's best benches", Marcin Gortat acknowledged.
Gortat wanted to see some videotape before saying much else. The Pacers actually had the better point differential during the regular season and won the head-to-head series 3-1, although those four games were played before the trade deadline. Toss in one from Pascal Siakam and C.J. Miles not having one of those games?
Miles made four from long range, while Ibaka and Wright each hit three.
"There were a lot of guys who we didn't expect to make those threes". All the more impressive that they did this without VanVleet, who makes the bench that much more risky for Toronto, and brings another weapon that they can use in clutch minutes. "We have to play it like a Game 7".
"I think the fans are more relieved than we are", Wright said.
Since rotations tend to shorten in the playoffs, the second unit may spend less time together on the floor than expected, but the Raptors' depth will allow them to field a greater variety of line-ups and make adjustments on the fly.
John Wall had 23 points and 15 assists for the Wizards, while Markieff Morris had 22 points and 11 rebounds. They had a close battle in most of time and led several times in the fourth quarter.
"As a young player, what you hear and what you're being told is not what you really need to do", Brooks said.
Now we move into "so you're telling me there's a chance" territory.
Intent on ending the streak, Lowry had said the team's approach was: "Our Game 1 is our Game 7". "No matter what, even if he doesn't play in five or 10 straight games, when he's going to come on the court, he's going to be ready". The miss was, effectively, the end of the night.
A attractive series of passing led to a three-pointer by Wright with 3:31 to play, and gave the Raptors a 12-point lead. The Wizards were also responsible for the lowest moment that this Raptors team has experienced - a first round sweep in 2015. Guys understanding what we're trying to do.
We'd heard snippets in commercial teasers, but you can now hear the full version via Sportsnet below.