The Toronto Raptors who have never won a NBA playoff opener in 17 years break their playoff curse by defeating the Washington Wizards 114-106 in game 1

By: Sijia Liu

Saturday, April 14, 2018

By Sijia Liu-Sports Reporter

     The Toronto Raptors faced their post season demons today and let’s just say those demons will be thinking twice before coming back to haunt them again. This was a very unique matchup because despite the Toronto Raptors being heavy favorites and a number one seed going into the series, defeating the Washington Wizards was not going to be an easy task. Kyle Lowry even described the Wizards as “ not a regular 8thseed.”

     These two teams met up four times this season and split the games 2-2. However, the Wizard’s star player John Wall did not pay a single minute in those games due a knee injury. It was going to be a challenge for the Raptors to make adjustments to the return of one of the fastest guards in the league.  Raptor’s shooting guard Demar Derozan described it as “whenever John is out there, they’re a different team, especially in transition. John finding the guys in transition and how dangerous he is when he has the ball in his hands.” 

     The game started off favorably for the Raptor’s. The Wizard’s center Marcin Gotat was no match for the dominating 7 foot center Jonas Valanciunas. Jonas put up 4 points in the first few minutes of the game and was able to get Gotat into early foul trouble. Wizard’s head coach Scott Brook was forced to take Gotat out and make early adjustments to his rotation. 

     Despite the Raptor’s strong start, they began to taper off a bit leading into the second half. The Raptor’s defense seemed confused at times, they tried to defend the three but the miscommunications led to some easy open shots for the Wizards, something that we know Dwane Casey won’t be happy about. The Wizard’s managed to take a 59-55 lead at the end of first half.

     The Raptor’s are known for their strong bench, aka the notorious bench mob. Teams know that playing the Raptor’s means taking on a 10 headed monster with extreme depth. One of their top bench players Fred Vanvleet was out due to a shoulder injury but that didn’t stop the bench mob from taking over in the second half. Delon Wright have an outstanding night, carrying the team on his back by shooting 70% from the field and finishing with 18 points. With more shots coming his way because of the double teams on Kyle Lowry and Demar Derozan he said he “saw that as the game was going on they were trapping them and just felt like I had open shots or the open lane to drive, so I just tried to see how it’s going.” 

     Another notable performance from the bench mob was the bench dad CJ Miles. He helped the Raptor’s take control in the 4th quarter by hitting some crucial last minute shots and finished off with 12 points. After the game he couldn’t have summed up the bench mob any better, “They understand the system and what the coaches want and their abilities in the system. That’s the biggest thing, they don’t try to play outside themselves, they all play extremely hard and it’s all right play.”

     The Raptor’s continue proving the doubters wrong game after game, but it’s far from celebration time yet. 

“This is a journey, it’s a marathon…. We’re not satisfied, we’re in this for the long run. We know we’re in a tough series against a very athletic, fast team,” said Raptor’s head coach Dwane Casey after the game. 

     The Raptors face off the Wizards at home for game 2 on Tuesday April 17 at 7pm.