Raptors beat Wizards to break curse

TORONTO • After 10 straight Game 1 defeats, the Toronto Raptors finally stared down their National Basketball Association (NBA) play-off demons with a 114-106 win over the Washington Wizards in their Eastern Conference series at the Air Canada Centre.

"It's over with now," DeMar DeRozan, who had 17 points and six assists, said after the game.

"We've got the utmost confidence in our team-mates. The way we've been playing all year, the style of play we've been playing is having trust in our team-mates to make the next play."

Serge Ibaka scored 23 points while Delon Wright and CJ Miles each had big games off the bench, combining for 30 points for the Raptors.

Toronto's bench also outscored Washington's reserves 42-21.

The win on Saturday was also the Raptors' first opening play-off win in the franchise's history.

John Wall led Washington with 23 points and 15 assists, and Markieff Morris scored 22 points and grabbed 11 rebounds.

Three years ago, Washington swept Toronto in the first round. And the Raptors are notorious for feeling play-off pressure.

It creates a sense that this will be a long and close series, even though Toronto lapped Washington in the regular season and won 16 more games.

On Saturday night, however, the Raptors sent a strong initial message about who they are. In short, they are better - clearly better - than Washington.

The biggest problem Washington have is that they are facing Toronto who seem to have developed an unflappable commitment to an identity and an improved style of play built around ball movement and trust.

In the fourth quarter of Game 1, the Wizards had a chance to win with an early lead. After falling behind 14-4 during a strange start that included a 15-minute delay because of a roof leak and a Marcin Gortat foul on the opening tip, Washington played quite well.

If the Raptors were a weak No. 1 seed, Washington would have stolen this game.

Instead, Toronto responded to the Wizards' game plan to keep DeRozan and Kyle Lowry from beating them by sharing the ball, playing 11 players and making 16 of 30 three-pointers.

The Raptors are not exactly an overpowering team, but their balance is a dangerous weapon.

"They are a good team," Wizards coach Scott Brooks said.

"They are the No. 1 seed for a reason. They have a lot of good players. Guys off the bench came in and stepped up. That's why they are so hard to guard."

REUTERS, WASHINGTON POST

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 16, 2018, with the headline 'Raptors beat Wizards to break curse'. Print Edition | Subscribe