The Toronto Raptors will look to bounce back from their opening game loss as they host the Washington Wizards in Game 2 of their opening round playoff series.
Where: Air Canada Centre, Toronto.
When: Wednesday April 22, 01:00 (UK time)
The Wizards claimed an overtime victory in the first meeting as Paul Pierce backed up his talk with action on the court as he led his team to a win at the ACC.
With his “it” comment prior to the game dominating headlines, the wily veteran drew the ire of the home crowd in his direction which in turn allowed him to relish the atmosphere and take the pressure off his teammates.
Despite a dramatic late comeback which was capped by Greivis Vasquez’s three to tie up the game to send it into overtime, the Wizards regrouped and came back out strong to draw first blood on the road.
As a result, this game is vitally important for Toronto now as losing two at home heading to Washington could be a real problem for coach Dwane Casey and his men.
In order to avoid that, he will need to see better efficiency from his back-court in particular with Kyle Lowry fouling out last time while the likes of DeMar DeRozan and Lou Williams struggled in terms of producing at the level that they have in the regular season.
Both teams initially struggled in Game 1 on the offensive end, but the Wizards were able to string enough quality together to make a sustained run which was led by the 20 points from Pierce.
The noisy home crowd will undoubtedly back their team and create a daunting playoff atmosphere both in and out of the arena, but the Raptors must learn their lessons and avoid making this about Pierce.
General manager Masai Ujiri was hit with another fine for his comments to fans outside the arena on Saturday, and the message from all concerned within the organisation is now forget about the Wizards forward and focus on what they have to do to get back in the series.
Although the Game 1 prediction was a Raptors win, they won’t make any mistake this time and step up their intensity on both ends of the court to take advantage of Washington’s general struggles on the road this year.
Lowry will be desperate for a bounce-back game and so he will lead the charge for the hosts whilst using Bradley Beal’s wave goodbye last time out as another reason for getting revenge, but he will have support from across the roster with newly crowned Sixth Man of the Year Williams coming off the bench to provide a spark.
However, it won’t just be about offensive execution, as the Raptors will need to find a way to slow Pierce down as well as keeping an eye on the likes of John Wall and Beal, and this time round, the Air Canada Centre will be rocking.
Prediction: Raptors to win.