Teams with home-court advantage have pretty much dominated the NBA playoffs. In fact, it’s difficult to find a higher-seeded team that didn’t take a 2-0 series lead.
And then there’s the Washington Wizards. The Wizards lead the Raptors 2-0 – this after taking both games in Toronto – and head back to Washington for Game 3 on Friday.
Isn’t this surprising? Granted, it’s a 4-5 matchup, so you’d expect the games to be close – and they were – but it’s very rare to see the road team win the first two games of a series, no?
“Well, it’s a team that showed up now in the playoffs that we saw in November and December that got off to a 22-8 start, so there wasn’t a surprise,” Wizards radio play-by-play voice Dave Johnson said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “There’s so many emotions that go on through the playoffs. Maybe it was a relief because (of) the apprehension going into the playoffs. The second part of the season for the Wizards, you’d give it an incomplete because there were some good moments, and there were some bad moments. So that gave you that apprehension going into the playoffs. How is this going to work?”
The Wizards took Game 1, 93-86, in overtime thanks to late-game heroics by Paul Pierce. It was the third time in five meetings that a Wizards/Raptors game went to overtime, including a triple overtime game in Toronto.
“I thought (it was) going to take two weeks to do this series,” Johnson joked. “But I think this is a Wizards team that has a nice balance of young players but also key veterans that are providing some steel and some leadership. That’s why they’re halfway to advancing.”
Then again, the Wizards have been here before.
“They did the same thing to Chicago last year, but couldn’t pull off a sweep,” Johnson said, referring to the Wizards taking Games 1 and 2 in Chicago before losing at home in Game 3. “And they were successful winning in Indiana and the Pacers won that series. So there’s some skeletons still knocking around the closet that the team is aware of, and maybe that will serve them well going into Game 3.”
The Wizards have owned the glass thus far in the series, out-rebounding the Raptors 106-76. Nene Hilario has 22 rebounds in 46 minutes.
“Nene is clearing out entire provinces,” Johnson said. “You get into playoff basketball and guess what? It does become a more physical game at times. It slows down even more. You need that grit and determination of a Nene or a (Marcin) Gortat or a Kevin Seraphin – and it’s not just the big guys. It’s the guards like Bradley Beal rebounding. He’s been a terrific story.”
Beal had 16 points and nine rebounds in Game 1 and 28 points and five rebounds in Game 2. John Wall, meanwhile, was better the second time around as well, finishing with 26 points and 17 assists in a 117-106 win Tuesday.
It’s a welcome sight after seeing both guards struggle with injures this season – Wall with migraines and sprained ankles, Beal with leg ailments.
“They were playing, but it wasn’t them,” Johnson said of the regular season. “But to their credit, to Bradley Beal’s credit, they didn’t shoot well in Game 1, but he got rebounds, he got steals – he stayed in the game. Look, when you’re not getting the sugar, it’s easy to check out, and they didn’t in Game 1. That’s a big reason why they won in overtime – even when they (were) shooting poorly – and (then they) had much better success in Game 2. So there’s a maturity about this team that I think gives Wizards fans confidence that they can advance out of the first round.”
Winning Game 3 would go a long way in accomplishing that objective. Friday’s tip-off is slated for 8 p.m. ET.