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The Raptors’ Game 2 Win Was a Perfect Birthday Present for Dwane Casey

The high-scoring affair was the statement that Raptors fans have been waiting for

NBA: Playoffs-Washington Wizards at Toronto Raptors John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

If there was any doubt about the Raptors in the team’s Game 1 win over the Wizards on Saturday, they erased all of it in an impressive 130-119 Game 2 victory powered by DeMar DeRozan. Here are three takeaways:

The Raptors’ Record-Breaking First Half Was the Difference

Toronto head coach Dwane Casey turned 61 years young on Tuesday, and the Raptors gave him plenty of reason to celebrate.

The Raptors went into halftime leading 76-58, shattering the previous franchise-high of 63 points in one half of a postseason game. It was just one of the franchise playoff records the team set, including points in a quarter (44), 3-pointers in the first quarter (seven), 3-pointers in the first half (11), and total points (130). Toronto started a sizzling 11-of-22 from 3, led by 20 points from DeMar DeRozan, a 3-5 start from 3J Miles beyond the arc, and a Jonas Valanciunas double-double at halftime.

The Wizards did their best to push the pace in the second half as John Wall slalomed between defenders to consistently get to the rim, and the lead fell to just five midway through the fourth quarter as the birthday boy decried the Raptors’ effort, which was getting a little too comfortable in the third quarter. Ultimately, it didn’t matter. The Wizards ran out of gas soon after their furious comeback, and Toronto crossed their t’s (and John Wall) by the end. In the process, they might’ve opened some eyes in their victory. Their dubious playoff history might not define them any longer. New year, new Raptors.

DeMar DeRozan’s Evolution Is Real

Six, three, four, one. That’s the total number of 3-pointers DeMar DeRozan had made in each of the last four postseasons, respectively. DeRozan had five through the first six quarters of this year’s playoffs, perhaps the simplest indicator of his evolution this year.

After a quiet Game 1 where Serge Ibaka (!) led the scoring charge, DeRozan took control in Game 2 with 37 points on 14-of-23 shooting, including 3-of-6 from 3-point land. The Raptors’ rise from afterthought to juggernaut began with DeRozan’s transformation from beyond the arc, and now that metamorphosis has extended to the playoffs. Everyone else beware.

Aren’t the Wizards Supposed to Have a Big Three?

Wizards coach Scott Brooks repeatedly emphasized defense entering the game, which made it all the funnier when the Raptors rewrote their playoff record book in the first half.

To win, Washington needed their high-priced stars—John Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter Jr.—to show up. Only Wall got the memo. (In his defense, a lot of people couldn’t get through to Washington today.) The Wizards were left vulnerable almost immediately when Wall picked up two fouls in the first five minutes of the game, thrusting Ty Lawson into his Wizards debut after signing with the team last week.

Despite that slow start, Wall finished with 29 points on 9-of-17 shooting, 11-of-11 from the free throw line, four rebounds, and nine assists. He displayed a surprising chemistry with Lawson, who finished with 14 points, eight assists, and three rebounds and was 4-of-5 from 3. Surprising numbers, though nowhere near as surprising as a player who hadn’t played all season getting crunch-time minutes for the Wizards in a playoff game. He had a better game than either Bradley Beal and Otto Porter Jr., who was practically invisible for the entire game.

Like Wall, Beal got into early foul trouble. Unlike Wall, Beal couldn’t shake off his bad start. He was out of rhythm for most of the night, and produced just nine points (going 3-for-11 on the game), three assists, and two rebounds, with a plus/minus of *wipes glasses* minus-34. It was another meek outing from Beal after seemingly challenging Wall for alpha status of the team for much of the season.

Washington’s paper-thin rotation already depends on its stars to keep the team competitive. When both of those stars get caught in foul trouble early in the game, everything gets harder. When one of those stars doesn’t show up altogether, it’s backbreaking.