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Wizards – Raptors Game 3: What to Watch

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[Photo cred: Monumental Network]

Toronto at Washington

Eastern Conference First Round Game 3 (Wizards lead series 2-0)
Verizon Center, Washington, DC
April 24, 2015 at 8:00 PM
TV: CSNWashington, ESPN
Radio: 99.1FM


What to watch:

The awakening of DC’s future Big 3.

There’s a different aura looming around these Wizards. An observation of boys becoming men. Cubs becoming wolves. Squires becoming knights. What am I talking about..of course there’s a different aura! It’s the goddmann playoffs!

But no, seriously, this is worth noting and talking about. There’s no question that John Wall, Bradley Beal, and Otto Porter are considered the young cornerstones of the team’s future. The impending ‘Big 3’ in DC. To see them spearhead their way through Toronto in Game 2 and take a 2-0 series simply proves the worth of their development into rising stars, and the worth of the team’s leadership, coaches and veterans alike.

When you remember Bradley Beal demand he and the Wizards “aren’t rolling”, and then watched him knock down a contested jumper and bark “can’t f*ck with me Kyle [Lowry]!” you’ll realize how important that sequence was for him in regards to his evolving character in this league. When you remember John Wall dismantle the Raptors defense with a franchise playoff-record 17 assists, then impulsively start dropping 3’s in their face, you’ll understand how this could turn another corner for him as the team’s floor general. When you recall Otto Porter’s supreme athleticism, his hustle, that killer deep-range shot, his 15 points and 9 rebounds, you’ll be just as excited as I am for what a few more successful playoff performances will do for him.

The Wizards dominated Game 2 on the strength of three players with a combined age of 22. Twenty-two!!! And thanks to them, for the first time, Taylor Swift actually makes sense to me. Well done, boys.

Key match-up:

Randy Wittman vs. his home playoff record.

Ted Leonsis dropped a blog-bomb this morning in which he aired out bloggers and other members of the media for their ‘passive-aggressive’ pixels about Randy Wittman despite Randy’s commendable road playoff record of 7-1.

“Randy has prepared the team well for playoff basketball and has won 7 of his first 8 road games. The best start to a playoff career of any coach in NBA history. You would never know that though reading some of the media and blogs. It goes against a narrative,” wrote Ted.

Soon after the blog post hit Twitter timelines, the reactions of #WizardsTwitter started to flood, just as you’d expect. However, no retort was better, or truer, than this one:

In last year’s first round of the playoffs, the Wizards left Chicago after the first two games winners of both, before promptly having their asses handed to by Mike Dunleavy and his 35 points in Game 3 at the Verizon Center, a 100-97 loss. Luckily for Wittman, his Wizards had the Bulls right under their thumb all throughout the series, and the Game 3 loss quickly became a forgotten memory after they won the next two and closed it out 4-1.

It was the next round where the the Wizards faced the Pacers, and went on to lose every home game in that series by an average of 13 points, including an 85-63 blowout in Game 3, and the elimination after Game 6. This, mind you, after Indiana, the East’s top seed, were pushed to the brink of elimination by the Hawks in the previous round.

Randy Wittman’s road playoff record is as commendable as his home playoff record is reprehensible. A road win for the Raptors tonight will catapult them right back into contention and thicken the plot of this series, rendering all forthcoming games a crap shoot in terms of advantage since both teams will have proved their ability to win on the other team’s home court.

X-Factor:

John Wall. For many reasons, but more than anything, this reason:

Paul Pierce has played a long time in this league, alongside many point guards. He’s won a championship with Rajon Rondo. He’s played with Deron Williams. He’s praised neither the way he has John Wall. And who is to say any of this was surprising? I certainly won’t. Watching John Wall become the supplier of offense has become a nightly custom, even when it’s not him actually putting the ball in the basket. And that’s the true meaning of the terms Pierce used, “top to bottom” and “overall”. To be able to find your teammates and direct them into positions they will most succeed. To be able to be a lock down on-ball defender. To dictate the open floor in transition.

John Wall feeds off criticism and praise alike. In the thick of a playoff series and with the first playoff game at home tonight, words of endearment and encouragement like the ones Pierce provided could be the catalyst for another memorable night for Wall. So go get ’em, John.

Fun factor:

What next Torontonian will Paul Pierce piss off? First it was DeMar DeRozan when Pierce said the Raptors don’t have the “it”. Then, it was Masai Ujiri, who’s always pissed at Pierce. Now, it’s Norm Kelly, Toronto’s city councillor.

Kelly expressed incredible disdain for Drake’s post-game handshake with Pierce after the Wizards took Game 2, driving him to post this tweet:

we are Hoop District

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