Photo: USA Today

Well we have dipped our collective toes into the first round action of the NBA Playoffs and it has not disappointed with the subplots and action. With all of the action going on, it’s important to keep it locked to Game 7 Network for all of the coverage throughout the NBA Finals.

The Washington Wizards have surprised many by blowing through the first round series against the Toronto Raptors in a sweep. The Wizards however, have shocked everyone with the relative ease in doing so. Somewhere Paul Pierce is somewhere smiling, swimming in the thoughts of “I told you so…” while placing his fingerprints all over this series. But we’ll get into that in a minute.

Here are the three things that you should learn from this series:

1) The Toronto Raptors have peaked and Washington Wizards have underachieved in the regular season.

Most basketball pundits saw these teams going down to the wire taking the series to seven games. I see their point very clearly. On the surface, these teams do look evenly matched. Some would have stated the Raptors are better based on the fact that Toronto swept Washington in the season series 3-0. Also, the Toronto Raptors won a franchise record 49 games this season. As we can see through the first three games, the Raptors are a couple of levels below Washington.

This was a very difficult series to figure out before the playoffs started. When asked for my analysis on sports shows, I really could only rely on last year based on the fact that both teams had played below .500 basketball after the All-Star break.

The only similarities between these two teams are the way they snuck up on the NBA last year. It is common knowledge that the Eastern Conference is not nearly as strong as the Western Conference. Last year both teams surprised many by finishing in the top four in the standings. Toronto played Brooklyn tough before eventually falling and the Wizards had a coming out party for John Wall and Bradley Beal destroying the Chicago Bulls. After pushing the Indiana Pacers to seven games in the second round, the future was bright in the Nation’s capital.

This year both teams came into this season with expectations. During the regular season, Washington did not live up to what the experts expected of them. Bradley Beal was hurt for parts of the season and John Wall seemed to regress in the late part of this season. Toronto played consistently behind Kyle Lowry’s All-Star year. However, when Lowry started missing games and DeMar DeRozan getting hurt, the Raptors started losing steam.

What does all of this mean? It means the Raptors still have not figured out a way to win in the post-Vince Carter era. To make things worse, the Raptors are now 0-7 in Game 1 of the first round. The Washington Wizards have changed their logo, but they need to change their last name to the “Road Warriors”. The Wizards have lost only one game in the last two postseasons. The Wizards head coach, Randy Wittman is the first coach in NBA history to win seven of his first eight road playoff games.

Photo: AP

2) It was never about the backcourt for the Wizards…it was the frontcourt that is making the difference.

The hype of this series was the backcourt battle of John Wall and Kyle Lowry. The supporting stars were going to be Bradley Beal and DeMar DeRozan. I never bought into this because…

It’s the playoffs.

In the playoffs, the winning teams rebound the basketball. Bottom line, the Washington Wizards frontcourt of Paul Pierce, Nene and Marcin Gortat has absolutely destroyed the Raptors on the boards. In the Game 1 loss, the Raptors got out-rebounded 61-48 including an absurd 19 offensive rebounds.

The frontline  of Tyler Hansbrough, Jonas Valanciunas, Amir Johnson and Patrick Patterson have totally been bullied in this series. For the backcourt of Toronto, who have lined up to throw bricks at the backboard for the majority of this series, the frontline have to make a contribution. But for these guys, they have to able to get a rebound.

Photo: Getty Images

3) Paul Pierce played the Toronto Raptors like Sega Genesis.

It is really obvious that the Toronto Raptors have figured out the method to Paul Pierce’s madness yet. Nor have they done their research on how long Paul Pierce has made snide comments to get in people’s heads during the playoffs.

Does anyone remember the job he did on LeBron James before James ran off to Miami?

Paul Pierce is in his 17th year in the NBA. Sometimes when you’ve been in the league so long, you find little things to gain an advantage.

After leading the Brooklyn Nets to eliminate the Raptors last year, he decided to let the Raptors know that he has fond memories of the experience by saying this in an ESPN interview…

“I don’t feel that they have  the ‘it’ that makes you worried.”

Then Pierce went out and scored 20 points in Game 1.

What people tend to ignore is the statements he said about his starting backcourt, John Wall and Bradley Beal…

“I talk to them a lot about mental preparation and consistency,” Pierce said. “I keep telling Wall and Beal, ‘You’ve got to make up your mind. Do you want to be good, or do you want to be great? Because if you want to be great, you gotta do it every single night, not just when you feel like it.”

Both of those guys have the potential to be great. I love them. But sometimes I’m not sure they realize what it takes.”

Now take a look at the disparity of John Wall and Kyle Lowry. John Wall has run circles around Kyle Lowry this entire series. Paul Pierce has used his experience to influence the entire series on both teams.

Finally, watch out for…

Kyle Lowry losing his cool and exploding on the court. He has been thoroughly outplayed by John Wall and he has been known to lose his cool when things start to go south.


 

Game 3 Highlights:

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