On Saturday night, the Toronto Raptors made history. They won the opening game of a playoff series for the first time since 2001. In Game 1 of the first round of the NBA Playoffs, the Raptors pulled out a win against a scrappy Washington Wizards team, 114-106.
The Wizards’ production came from the normal culprits. John Wall played an all-around great game, finishing with 23 points and 15 assists. His backcourt partner Bradley Beal chipped in 19 points. But, as usual, the bench was practically non-existent for Washington. Besides Mike Scott’s 14 points, the Wizards bench of Tim Frazier, Tomas Satoransky, Kelly Oubre and Ian Mahinmi combined to score just seven points total. The Wizards’ bench production is a complete antipode to their foe’s.
Delon Wright, Fred VanVlett, Norman Powell, Pascal Siakim and Jakob Poetl comprise the Toronto Raptors’ bench. Along with veteran sharpshooter C.J. Miles, the Raptors’ bench has statistically been one of the most effective in the league throughout the entire regular season. And on Saturday, the bench was the deciding factor to who would strike first in the playoff series.
Even with Fred VanVleet missing the opening game of the series with a shoulder injury, Toronto’s bench outshined and outperformed Washington’s bench in emphatic style. The Raptors outscored the Wizards’ bench 42 to 21 while also outshooting Washington 56 percent to 44 percent from the field and 61.5 percent from the 3-point line to 33.3 percent. In every aspect, the Raptors’ bench outplayed Washington’s, and the disparity between the two was rather large.
Late in the game on Saturday night, it was the Raptors’ bench continuing their successful night to hold off and put away the Wizards. With just under four minutes to go in the game, both DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry deferred to Delon Wright, passing up open looks for themselves and trusting the young backup guard to deliver. As the shot clock wound down, Wright calmly upfaked, took a dribble to the left and nailed a 3-pointer as Wall and Otto Porter flew past him trying to block his shot.
Lowry and DeRozan didn’t have stellar games for Toronto. Over 38 minutes of play, Lowry managed to score just 11 points while attempting only nine shots. DeRozan battled through an inefficient shooting performance, as he scored 17 points on 35.3 percent shooting. For most teams, performances from their top two players like Lowry’s and DeRozan’s on Saturday would have sunk their chance to win. But the Raptors aren’t most teams. Toronto’s bench carried them for stretches in the game and put on a strong enough performance to help offset the subpar games from Lowry and DeRozan.
In all honesty, the Wizards had a prime opportunity to completely change the complexion of the series. They could have taken advantage of Lowry’s and DeRozan’s subpar games and won on the road. The loss would have been absolutely demoralizing for the Raptors, and the talk of them not being true contenders in the East would have been at an all-time high. But a primarily young Toronto bench kept those daunting worries away from the Raptors, at least for now.
The playoff series continues on Tuesday night in Toronto, with the Raptors holding a 1-0 lead in the series.