Toronto Raptors finally break out of Game 1 curse

Toronto Raptors finally break out of Game 1 curse

I want to be good on defense, but my job right now on this team is to be the best defensive player that I can be. "We're a different team, different style of play, different people, different egos". Kyle Lowry, who was battling a virus and coughed throughout the post-game press conference, finished with 11 points and nine assists for the Raptors.

"That sequence was big for us just to get the lead back and kind of start to get a little bit of momentum, a little bit more push", Lowry said.

"We knew what he had to do", Lowry told ESPN. They worked the ball to Anunoby, the rookie, who coolly hit big shots like he had done this before.

All hope is not lost for Washington, though, as they went 2-2 against Toronto in the regular season, despite the absence of star point guard John Wall. Bradley Beal scored 19 while Markieff Morris tallied 22 points and 11 rebounds. It's a straightforward strategy that had created long, hard playoff series for the Raptors, even when they did eventually move on to the next round, and had allowed the Cleveland Cavaliers to defeat them in each of the last two years.

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Trailing 59-55 at the half, Toronto, the top seed in the Eastern Conference, exploded for 31 points in the third quarter where the Raptors swung the momentum on their favor.

The Wizards take on the Raptors at 5:30 p.m. ET. And cue urgency from the Raptors, who came out firing from halftime, getting quick 3-pointers from Lowry, DeRozan and Serge Ibaka in the first three minutes of the second half as if to say, "not this time". Minutes later, the same happened to Ian Mahinmi, forcing the Wiz to adapt their rotation.

The Washington Wizards aren't your typical 8-seed either.

VanVleet is averaging 6.8 points per game, 2.0 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game. Beal was hot for the Wizards as well. And when Toronto went into the fourth quarter with an 86-85 lead, it set up a thrilling final 12 minutes in front of a capacity Air Canada Centre crowd that included Drake, sitting courtside in a Humboldt Broncos hockey jersey.

Everything resets in the postseason, and no team knows that better than the Raptors, whose regular-season success has been wiped away with troubling performances to start the playoffs in four straight years.

The question now is whether Drake will be courtside for Game 1. "They're not a normal eight seed".

The Bucks will also have the best player in the series, forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, and I found a year ago that teams with this advantage do win somewhat more often than their team stats would suggest.

The Raptors opened as 8.5-point favorites; the total is at 210.5, according to sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark. With the bench units, it was Delon Wright and CJ Miles in this game, although VanVleet, Pascal Siakam, Jakob Poeltl and Bebe are all capable of scoring outbursts as well, even if none of those guys was called upon to have that impact last night. DeMar DeRozan had made only one of his five shots. Miles, acquired last summer for his long-range shooting, led the way with four, while Wright and Ibaka had three. While they have largely flattered to deceive, Scott Brooks' men still have the playoff experience to take the Raptors to the brink. "They had eight more threes than us. He's been doing the same thing all year, it's nothing new".

It's just one game, and Washington looks ready to give Toronto a run in this first-round matchup.

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