The Toronto Raptors were fortunate enough to win on Saturday despite the production from the tandem of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. Those two either took a quick scroll through their Twitter timelines or realized what was at stake during halftime of Saturday’s Game 1 against the Washington Wizards.
After the duo was scrutinized for combining to score seven points on 2-for-8 shooting while turning the ball over four times in the first half, the No. 1-seed Raptors walked into the locker room down 59-55 and didn’t look the part of a team that had broken a franchise record for wins in a season; they looked like a team that was scared to lose yet another opener of a playoff series.
Lowry and DeRozan managed to double their point total from the first half in a little more than two minutes to start the second and wound up scoring 11 and 17, respectively, to outduel the Wizards in a fun one, 114-106. Still, aside from the last few minutes, it was too close for comfort in a back-and-forth game that likely had the crowd at the Air Canada Centre developing ulcers as the game went on.
This Raptors team has hinged on two weapons this season: the star pairing of Lowry and DeRozan and a bench that’s arguably the best in the NBA. Neither the frontcourt duo nor the bench lit a fire early on; instead, it was the triangle of Serge Ibaka, OG Anunoby and Jonas Valanciunas, who scored 17 of the first 22 points of the game while Ibaka led the way with 23. And while it’s great for those types of players to contribute on the biggest stage in order to fulfill the prophecy of a deep run, the Raptors are going to need Lowry and DeRozan to play to the levels their capable of.
This is a decorated bench that will punish opposing backup players on a regular basis, though Lowry and DeRozan checking out for breaks with leads and not forcing the lion’s share of the pressure on the bench will be pivotal for the Raptors going forward.
On one end, you have to feel good if you’re the Raptors to earn a W while getting so-so games from your two stars.
On the other, if there’s any caveat for the eight-seeded Wizards, they proved they weren’t scared to play on the road against the top team in the East in a raucous environment. For Lowry and DeRozan, it’ll be up to them to drain that hope and continue carrying the Raptors through the first round and beyond.
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