As it turns out, the "it" factor that Paul Pierce said the Toronto Raptors lacked before this first-round series began belongs to him even at 37. Pierce scored 11 of his 18 points in the final 2:38 of Friday's 106-99 win to put the Wizards one game from the first playoff sweep in franchise history.
Pierce made consecutive three-point shots to spot the Wizards, playing their first home playoff game after winning two on the road, a 98-90 lead with the Raptors lurking. He sent the sellout of 20,356 into a frenzy and repeated a line he said last year when he made a big shot in Game 1 for the Brooklyn Nets -- "That's why I'm here" -- in an upset of these Raptors in the first round, too.
"My adrenaline is through the roof. It's trying to come down," said Pierce, who only needed nine shots in 27 minutes. "I'm just enjoying the moment. I love playoff basketball. I love everything about it. I love the crowds on the road. I love it at home. I can't even tell you one thing I said tonight."
In Game 1 of this series, Pierce had 20 points and made the clinching three-pointer in overtime for a 93-86 win for Washington.
Before Pierce's heroics, it was his pupil Otto Porter hitting a three-pointer to break an 88-88 tie. The Raptors pulled to 92-90 on free throws by DeMar DeRozan but couldn't get any closer. Porter played the entire fourth quarter where he scored seven of his 11 points. He made both three-point shots, the second of which increased the margin to 95-90.
"To hit back-breaking threes like that, it sucks the life out of you," said Drew Gooden, who made 3 of 6 from deep for 12 points. "Those were huge shots, especially in the playoffs."
DeRozan began the game shooting 8-for-10 from the field. He shot 3-for-19 the rest of the way and Porter had a lot to do with that.
"I think he's tired of me getting on him, too. I constantly stay in Otto's ear pushing him, trying to get him to be the best he can be. He's responded. He's starting to play with a little bit more fire," said Pierce, whose first three-pointer of the fourth came immediately after checking in with the Wizards who'd scored just four points in a three-minute stretch. "That's all we've been wanting from Otto. We know he's go the talent. You know the potential is there. When he plays with that edge like you saw tonight on defense, the offense will come.
"Right now he's our defensive guy. He's there to knock down open shots. He's a slasher. He's starting to play with that edge now. He's getting the tough assignment when he comes in every single night whether it's DeMar DeRozan. He's going to have to guard the LeBron Jameses. I think he's finally ready for those assignments and he's up for it. What better way to come out like this than in the spotlight like the playoffs? I'm happy for him."
Pierce's energy is contagious. Porter blocked DeRozan from behind with 8:58 left in the game and proceeded to stare him down. DeRozan shoved him which led to a technical foul.
"I need it. I'm a young pup," Porter said of Pierce, who has mentored the second-year player from Day One. "I need somebody to push me and that's what he's doing.
"I cannot repeat what he says and I'm not trying to. But he doesn't really say much. He just gets me ready to play defense, remind me, showing me plays on film and stuff, what to expect."
Gooden had a hearty laugh when told about Porter's staredown of DeRozan, who couldn't free himself with pump fakes no matter how many he tried. DeRozan had 32 points, but only 12 came after the first quarter. And it took him 29 shots.
"That's good. We all like to see emotion from Otto," Gooden said. "He's not out there to show anybody up. He's a great guy. We need some of that emotion every once in a while. If he did that I'm glad."