I’ve been working nights lately and haven’t much of a chance to catch the NBA playoffs. Mostly just highlights, really. It’s kind of frustrating but the bills don’t pay themselves.
Thankfully, I’ve got twitter and an app that gives me updates on the games. It’s amazing when you think about it: a steady stream of updates, the ability to follow the game without watching or listening to it. It’s come in handy a lot this season, although a lack of context – Is one team on a run? Did someone make a great play? Is the crowd even legal? – makes for a coldly impersonal experience.
Last night, when I checked during a break at work, I could barely believe what I saw: the Washington Wizards were making mincemeat of the Toronto Raptors! It was just the latest in a long run of Bad Raptor Updates I’ve gotten in recent months, but not an experience I want to get used to.
Let’s back this up for a second. Earlier this season, the Raptors looked like one of the NBA’s best teams. Shortly after Christmas, they were 24-7 and lead the Eastern Conference. By the end of February, they were 37-22 and fading fast. It’s basically been a tale of two years in one season. In one, the fall of 2014, the Raptors were quite good. In the other, the winter of 2015, the Raptors were not good: between Jan. 2 and Apr. 15, the Raptors went 25-23.
Still, Raptor fans were hoping to face the Wizards in the first round. After all, the Wizards were also a team that had faded as the year went on (24-26 in the same stretch) and one the Raptors swept in their three meetings this season.
But it hasn’t worked out like that for the Raptors. And it’s worked out better than I imagine most Wizards fans hoped, too.
Washington has shredded the Raptors in the first two games. It’s not exactly a shocker, given how Toronto’s defence is porous even in the best of times: this year, their defensive rating is 107.7, 25th in the NBA. And even though the series started with a storm of words from Washington’s Paul Pierce (and some fun work by the Toronto Sun’s sports department), John Wall dominated the second game.
I could barely believe the alert on my phone: Wall exploded in game two, dropping 26 points (shooting .500 along the way), 17 assists and went 8-of-11 from the line. It might’ve been his best game all season. Especially compared to Sunday afternoon, when Wall didn’t get to the line once and shot a dismal 5-of-18.
And quickly, the Raptors dream first-round matchup is looking like a nightmare series. They’re getting trounced on their home court, Kyle Lowry is maybe injured and Pierce is shouting he doesn’t want to go through customs again this spring. As the series moves to Washington, the Raptors are facing extinction. (…I’ll show myself out.)
The first round is one of the most exciting times on the NBA calendar, when good teams play every night and there are at least two games on the tube. It’s also a time when the best players start to rise above the pack, too. So in a way, I’m glad to see Wall have an explosive night. After all, excellence should be rewarded.
Still, I wish it didn’t have to happen against the Raptors. It could be worse, though: instead of frantically scrolling down for updates and getting text alerts, I could actually be watching a frustrating implosion happen in real time. Instead, I pressed a button and got back to work.