WASHINGTON (AP) - John Wall twirled a red towel overhead, Paul Pierce motioned to the fans to make more noise, and the sellout crowd of 20,356 chanted “Sweep! Sweep! Sweep!”
The mood was so festive Sunday night that even sometimes-humorless Washington Wizards coach Randy Wittman cracked wise when a reporter referred to taking a seven-game series 4-0 for the first time in franchise history.
“Oh, is that right?” Wittman replied. “Do I get anything for that?”
Well, Randy, just another trip to the second round, something Washington’s woebegone NBA club hadn’t done in consecutive years since 1978 and 1979, when it was known as the Bullets.
The Wizards emphatically finished off the Toronto Raptors in four games by winning 125-94 Sunday night to quickly close the first-round Eastern Conference series, getting 21 points and 11 rebounds from Marcin Gortat, and 14 points and 10 assists from Wall.
“I don’t think Game 4 was really that tough, like everybody was saying it was going to be,” Gortat said.
Six Wizards scored in double figures, including Bradley Beal with 23 points and Pierce with 14, and that duo made seven of the Wizards’ team playoff-record 15 3-pointers.
“Didn’t have any letdowns,” Pierce said.
After both Games 2 and 3, Pierce - the 37-year-old with an NBA championship ring from his days in Boston - declared that he didn’t want to have to deal with going through U.S. Customs again, a reference to wanting to avoid having to travel back to Toronto for Game 5.
Not a problem.
Washington led by 16 in the first quarter, 20 in the second and by a whopping 32 - 102-70 - entering the fourth.
“It was just embarrassing,” Toronto’s Patrick Patterson said. “It was horrific. It was a letdown. It was just ugly.”
Next up for the No. 5 seed Wizards will be No. 1 Atlanta or No. 8 Brooklyn. Those teams play their Game 4 on Monday, with the Hawks up 2-1.
“We have that mindset that we’re not finished,” Beal said. “We have that mindset that we’re an elite team in this league.”
Toronto went 3-0 against Washington in the regular season, but failed to find any consistency from quarter to quarter in the playoffs. Kyle Lowry kept finding himself in foul trouble - he picked up his third midway through the first quarter Sunday - and shot poorly. He scored 21 in Game 4, while DeMar DeRozan had 14.
“We were just emotionally drained and we just kind of gave in to their onslaught as the game went on,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. “That’s kind of the way sweep games go. Either you’re in it and, if you can handle the haymakers, you can survive. But we didn’t survive.”
The No. 4 seed Raptors extended their history of brief postseasons: Their past five trips ended with first-round exits.
The Wizards are experiencing a revival of sorts, led in large part by Wall, the No. 1 overall pick the 2010 draft and an All-Star the past two seasons.
Washington won 46 games this season, the first time the club topped 45 since it was known as the Bullets in 1979, back before anyone on the current roster other than Pierce had been born - and he was only about 18 months old at the time.
“A lot of people didn’t have us favored in this series because we didn’t beat them in the regular season,” Wall said. “But we showed a different mindset and hunger in the playoffs.”
Raptors: Toronto has never won a best-of-seven series. The only time the Raptors advanced was in a five-game series against the Knicks in 2001.
Wizards: Washington last eliminated an opponent from the playoffs without dropping a game in 1982, when it “swept” a best-of-three series 2-0. … Through the game’s first 1 1/2 quarters, Beal had 15 points - only one fewer than Toronto’s starting five combined.
GORTAT’S BIG GAME
Gortat made 8 of 9 field goals, following up his 24-point, 13-rebound performance in Game 3.
“I guess I’m the weakest link out there, so they’re going to leave me open a lot,” Gortat said, then added this quip: “One day, if I’m going to play a perfect game, I might crack the Wilt Chamberlain record” of 100 points.
Lowry, an East All-Star, shot 18 of 57 in the series, only 31.6 percent.
“Very unsatisfactory, to be honest,” he said.
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