- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 21, 2015

TORONTO — No matter how long the Washington Wizards and Toronto Raptors take to finish their first-round series, a constant will be the battle and divergent arrival paths of the teams’ point guards.

John Wall, out of Kentucky, the No. 1 overall pick by the Wizards in 2010. Kyle Lowry, from Villanova, snuck into the back end of the first round, has been traded twice and is now playing for his third team.

Wall is 6 feet 3, a flash of speed and one of the more physical guards in the league. Lowry is a 6-foot scrapper who knows no way other than to fight.

The duo’s talents converged this season when each was selected to play in the All-Star Game and started together in the backcourt.

“We always been pretty cool, but we’re two competitive people,” Wall said. “We’re trying to compete and take each other’s heads off to win the game. He’s one of those guys that’s very confident. He don’t care, if he feels like he can make it, he’s going to take it. That’s one thing he’s going to do is keep shooting if he’s missing and feel like one shot can change everything. I know that’s one thing I have to do is stay locked in on him for 48 minutes.”

Leaning into the podium with enough sweat sparkling on his head to cause a team employee to casually push a towel toward him, Lowry was surly but polite on Sunday.

The irritation from fouling out in Game 1 of the Raptors‘ best-of-seven series with the Wizards still seemed to percolate. After undercutting Bradley Beal with 2:36 to play in the fourth quarter on Saturday, Lowry stomped straight to the bench. He knew the sound of the whistle would jettison him from the game. He also knew he was just 2-for-10 from the field.

“Super difficult,” Lowry said Sunday of watching the end and overtime. “Just fouling out in general. Not being able to be myself and help my teammates is definitely more frustrating … That’s Game 1, you learn from mistakes and you get better.”

Working through the NBA has not been easy for Lowry, so Saturday was just another wobbly brick underfoot. He played just 10 games his rookie season in 2006 because of a broken wrist that required surgery. The following year, Memphis drafted point guard Mike Conley with fourth overall pick. Lowry knew that meant his end in Memphis would be swift. He was traded to the Houston Rockets, with whom he eventually became a starter. Then, he battled with new coach Kevin McHale. Houston traded him to Toronto in 2012.

This season, he was an all-star for the first time. In many ways, he’s the guts of the Raptors. He had two offensive rebounds in Game 1, as many as center Jonas Valanciunas. So, the ownership of failure in the opener — Lowry said the Raptors did not push the pace enough and that was his fault — plus the extra work on Sunday is not a surprise.

Wall’s first night was not much better. He said going through the playoffs last season allowed him to be more calm at the start this postseason. Making his way to the court to warmup for Game 1, Wall recited rap lyrics, appearing attracted to the light of the court like a moth. His night would not be pristine by any stretch — he was 5-for-18 from the field ­— though he was able to take a one-game lead on his fellow all-star. It was just the beginning of a series-long battle.


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