The Washington Wizards wrapped up the last week of the regular season with a 1-2 record to close out a 46-36 campaign, their most regular season wins since 1979.
It was a busy week for the Wizards, who had a 108-99 win in their home finale against the top-seeded Atlanta Hawks on April 12 . The Hawks rested their starters in preparation for the postseason but the Wizards didn’t care, as five players scored in double figures to edge out Atlanta. Back-to-back overtime losses on the road against Indiana and Cleveland didn’t slow the Wizards’ momentum as they tuned up in time to open the playoffs on the road against the Toronto Raptors on April 18. The AFRO recaps the weekend that was for the Washington Wizards.
April 18: Pierce Clutch in Game One Overtime Win over Raptors
Paul Pierce talked trash to the Toronto Raptors in the days leading up to their noon showdown in Game One on April 18, but backed it up with some clutch play. Pierce scored a game-high 20 points and drilled several crucial three-pointers, going 4-of-7 from beyond the arc. Washington used the experience from their final two games—both overtime losses—to sneak past the Raptors 93-86 in overtime. Pierce’s 10 points during a 14-2 run in the second quarter helped Washington erase a seven-point deficit. The Wizards’ lead ballooned to 15 points at the top of the fourth quarter and the road team appeared ready to walk away with an easy win, but Toronto battled back.
Reserve Raptors guard Greivis Vasquez nailed a three-pointer to tie the game with 25 seconds left in regulation, capping a 26-17 final quarter for Toronto and sending the game into an extra period. Things calmed down for the Wizards in overtime, as they clamped down on defense and Nene and Pierce’s veteran poise stabilized a crazy afternoon. Pierce has made a mark in the postseason over the years, and his leadership helped Washington net their first win of the season over the Raptors after going 0-3 against them in the regular season.
Five players scored in double figures for the Wizards. Nene added 12 points and 13 rebounds and his performance alongside Pierce was vital in the team’s win. Washington’s heralded backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal was the definition of inefficient as the pair shot a combined 11-for-41 from the field, including 1-of-9 from long range. The two did contribute elsewhere, however, as Beal added six assists and nine rebounds while Wall chipped in with eight assists and six rebounds.
Wall, however, continued his postseason struggles as he scored just 10 points on 5-of-18 shooting. Wall struggled mightily in the playoffs last season, especially in the second round against Indiana. Memories of his bad shooting resurfaced against the Raptors, but Wall will need to find his offense if the Wizards expect to advance over Toronto.
Next: Game Two is set for April 21 in Toronto. Games Three and Four will be played at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. on April 24 and April 26.