With a 102-92 victory in Game 6 of their first-round series against the Washington Wizards on Friday, the Toronto Raptors advanced to the second round of the playoffs and changed the conversation about their All-Star guards. The only team in the National Basketball Association to avoid a three-game losing streak this season, the Raptors went 5-0 following back-to-back losses during the regular season, and have not lost three straight since last year's second-round sweep against Cleveland.
Raptors stars DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry admitted coach Dwane Casey's philosophy of riding his bench this season took some getting used to. "We have high expectations coming into the year and we fell short of them".
Having trailed by as many as 12 points and down five going into the fourth, the Raptors outscored the Wizards 29-14 in the final quarter to secure the win.
Valanciunas had a huge series (tons of rebounds, uber-efficient scoring, only Anthony Davis averaged more contested two-point shots a game), though not quite as good as the advanced metrics indicate. "It's a different team", VanVleet said. "This is a great opportunity for us to get it out of the way and move on". "Going into today, me Brad knew we were going to play 40-plus minutes, and it just didn't work in our favor at the end".
It allowed DeRozan to play only 33½ minutes total, and Lowry 31½, compared with more than 40 each for Washington's All-Star guards, John Wall and Bradley Beal, who looked exhausted by the end. Time and time again, he said there was no rulebook that said he couldn't keep using his deep bench. "Freddie [VanVleet] back out there with the guys", DeRozan said after the game (ESPN).More news: Bob Dorough, creator of 'Schoolhouse Rock,' has died
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Kyle Lowry had a solid first round averaging 17.2 points, 8.3 assists and 4.8 rebounds while shooting 43.6 percent. With C.J. out there, he spaces the floor tremendously. But it was Toronto's bench - with Fred VanVleet back on the court - who jump-started the late-game comeback. But two minutes later, the speedy Wall had the ball stolen by Valanciunas, a lumbering big man by comparison, and DeRozan finished the play with an emphatic dunk, bringing the fans to their feet with a roar. They're too young, they're too this, they're too that. "It is that little birdie on the shoulder and I thought it really propelled Pascal [Siakam] and those other guys to give them a sense of confidence". "They closed it out for us tonight". In the Raptors' two losses in Washington, Porter Jr. had two three pointers in game three and game four of the series.
Game 7 will be played Sunday in Cleveland.
Asked whether he has a preference for the upcoming opponent, DeRozan answered with one word: "No".
Coach Casey danced with the girls who brung him, while Coach Brooks opted to experiment and tinker with lineups, and it ended up being one of the factors that prematurely ended the Wizards season.
But this time, Washington bowed out earlier than it was hoping when the season began with grandiose talk of a run to the conference finals. John Wall had 26 points, and Bradley Beal added 20 for the Wizards. DeRozan has had a few bad games in their playoff run so far, including a measly 16-point outing in their last game against the Washington Wizards.