He did more of the same against the Raptors on Saturday.
Pierce had a throwback performance, scoring 20 points on 7-of-10 shooting in a 93-86 overtime win for the Wizards. Bradley Beal added 16 for Washington, while Amir Johnson led Toronto off the bench with 18.
The performance by the former Finals MVP came in the wake of some pregame barbs traded between Pierce and Toronto GM Masai Ujiri. Pierce said leading up to the series that the Raptors didn’t have the “’It’ factor that makes you feel worried.” Ujiri responded during a pregame rally, telling a frenzied crowd, “We don’t give a s--- about ‘It.’”
Pierce had the last laugh.
The game left much to be desired as the kickoff for the playoffs. Both teams struggled mightily on offense, as neither could reach 40 percent shooting for the game.
The Raptors missed a myriad of good looks around the basket, and routinely mishandled fastbreak opportunities. Toronto’s starting five was a disaster, with only DeMar DeRozan scoring in double digits, on a horrendous 6-of-20 shooting.
The battle of All-Star guards was also a letdown. Kyle Lowry managed only seven points on 3-of-11 shooting, and he fouled out in the fourth quarter. John Wall managed only 10 points and shot under 30 percent from the field.
Washington stole home court advantage by playing solid defense and dominating on the glass. The Wizards outrebounded the Raptors 61-48 (there were a lot of missed shots), and especially cleaned up on the offensive end, racking up 19 offensive boards.
[daily_cut.NBA]The Wizards looked poised to run away with the game in the fourth quarter, building a double-digit lead before the Raptors stormed back. Greivis Vasquez and Lou Williams helped keep Toronto in the game, hitting clutch threes down the stretch.
Vasquez hit a triple that tied the game at 82, and Wall missed a contested mid-range jumper to send the game into overtime. Toronto couldn’t buy a bucket in the extra period, and Washington put the game away comfortably.
It’s hard to imagine Lowry and Wall playing so poorly later in the series, but Toronto’s offense will certainly need to regroup for the next game. The Raptors looked nothing like the best offense in the Eastern Conference, and relied too heavily on isolations and one-on-one offense.
Washington’s defense may not have the benefit of Toronto missing a bunch of layups in the remaining games of the series, but the Wizards struggling offense got a much needed boost from proven playoff performer Pierce.
The future Hall-of-Famer proved he still has “It.” And he made the Raptors take notice.