It's déjà vu all over again for the Raptors.
Toronto's old nemesis Paul Pierce dealt the Raptors another round of heartbreak on Friday, sinking a dagger three-pointer to help lift the Wizards to a 106-99 home victory in Game 3. The win helped moved Washington to a 3-0 series lead, setting up a possible sweep in Game 4 on Sunday.
Pierce's shot-making reputation is well-established, and this one will only add to his legend. With less than 30 seconds remaining and the Wizards leading 102-99, John Wall attacked off the dribble after working the shot clock down. Toronto's defense collapsed on the drive, causing Wall to toss a kick-out pass to Pierce, who was spotting up at the left angle. Pierce received the ball with less than three seconds on the clock, he pump-faked once and then buried a three-pointer that sealed the win.
As he ran back down the court, Pierce egged on the Verizon Center crowd by declaring: "That's why I'm here."
The scene was reminiscent of Pierce's late-game heroics in Game 7 of last year's first-round series between Brooklyn and Toronto. Pierce drained a jumper and made a game-sealing block on Kyle Lowry to send the Nets past the Raptors. He famously punctuated his play in that game by declaring, "That's why they brought me here." Prior to the 2013-14 season, Brooklyn had traded a host of draft picks to Boston to acquire Pierce and Kevin Garnett in hopes of making a deep postseason run. Pierce subsequently signed with the Wizards as a free agent last summer.
Prior to the 2015 playoffs, Pierce made headlines when he expressed doubts about the Raptors, suggesting that Toronto lacked the "It" factor. Raptors GM Masai Ujiri responded to those comments by saying publicly, "We don't give a s--- about 'it'." Ujiri and the Raptors were fined for the profane response.
Pierce finished with 18 points and three rebounds in Game 3. Marcin Gortat tallied a team-high 24 points, 13 rebounds and five assists. Wall added 19 points, 15 assists and five rebounds.
DeMar DeRozan posted a game-high 32 points, six rebounds and six assists. Kyle Lowry added 15 points, seven assists and four rebounds.
Washington is looking to advance to the conference semifinals for the second consecutive season.