Culture of Hoops

Sweep the North: Wizards Take 3-0 Lead

Image courtesy of Keith Allison/Flickr.

Image courtesy of Keith Allison/Flickr.

A week ago these two team’s seasons were much of a muchness: fast starts, burnt out by All-Star break, and downhill ever since.
Limping to the Playoffs, a first round matchup between the pair meant somebody had to prevail. They deserved each other.
What a difference a week makes.
As the Wizards take a commanding 3-0 lead with a chance  into Sunday’s Game 4 in Washington, looking for their first sweep in more than 35 years, the crew from #WetheNorth doesn’t know which way is up.
While giddying expectations abound for the Wizards, the second round and perhaps beyond, the Raptors are long forgotten.
This, the Raptors’ most-winningest season — just one win shy of 50 — is somehow also their most disappointing.
After sweeping the regular season series against the Wizards, the Raptors have lost their way. For the third-straight game the Raptors have been outplayed and while the Wizards have gotten better each and every game, the Raptors have, well, stayed the same.
“We just got to go out there and do our jobs and make it fun,” Kyle Lowry told reporters after the game, “if we’re going to go down, we got to go down having fun”.
It’s a noble cause, because for the Raptors, this series has been anything but.
On Friday night, at least the effort was there.
The Raptors looked like they were trying to save face. It looked like dropping the first two games at home hurt them. DeMar DeRozan was doing his best Kobe Bryant impersonation in the first quarter, dropping 20 points in the Phone Booth. The Raptors lead by two at halftime, but things dried up after that.
As for Lowry, well, his series from hell continued. After shooting just 5-20 in the first two games, Lowry went 5-22. He was aggressive, but his shot continues to elude him.
“I thought he played his heart out,” Raptors Coach Dwane Casey said post-game.
With questions of effort (or lack thereof) in the first two games swept aside by the Raptors’ fight in Game 3, the reality is that the Raptors’ best effort is simply not good enough.
Their defense has been punished by John Wall, who after a sloppy Game 1, has dropped 32 assists in the last two games. Otto Porter, who was a fringe rotation guy for the Wizards just a couple of months ago, can get what he wants. Hell, even Drew Gooden III, who was amnestied by the Milwaukee Bucks over a year ago and caught on with the Wizards via a ten-day contract in February, couldn’t be contained.
The Wizards have rounded themselves into form at the expense of the Raptors. Now, when they take on the Atlanta Hawks in the next round (sorry to the Brooklyn Nets) there’s a chance they can make a series of that too. As for the Raptors, well there will be some soul-searching this summer north of the border.
Of course, this series is not over yet, at least technically speaking (no team has ever come back from 3-0 down to win a seven-game series). However, when the Raptors tried their guts out and still couldn’t pull out a win on Friday, their season was essentially done.
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