Title: 10 observations: Don’t ever, ever mess with Kyle Lowry
Date: December 23, 2016
Original Source: The Athletic
Synopsis: In my latest for The Athletic Toronto, I took over “10 observations” duty from Eric Koreen, recapping the Raptors win over the Jazz.
There is no way to know for certain how the Raptors offence will perform once the postseason rolls around. Among the concerns we could stretch for, as Eric Koreen and I did this week, a top-10 offensive outfit performance struggling in the playoffs in each of the last three years was weighed and found wanting, not only because it is impossible to know, but because this Raptors attack is even more lethal than in years past. Historically so.
Still, if there were a potential indicator of how it may hold up in April and May, how it performs against elite defences would be a logical place to look. The necessary caveats apply – an opponent may not be fully locked in, game-planning for just one game is not the same as a series, the occasionally overstated swallowing of the whistles in the playoffs – but seeing how the unstoppable force measures up against immovable objects, as it were, should be illuminating.
In that sense, this six-game stretch should have some good tests and some, umm, non-tests. The Utah Jazz firmly represent the former, entering the game with the No. 3 defensive rating in the league, the best opponent field-goal percentage, the second-fewest 3-point attempts allowed, and a bottom-10 foul rate. Those numbers and Rudy Gobert make the Jazz theoretically one of the best examinations, even without the services of George Hill and Dante Exum.
The Raptors scored 56 points in the first half despite just six free-throw attempts, scoring 117.3 points per-100 possessions, almost exactly their season-long mark. They slowed down in the second half, particularly in an ugly third quarter, but they still managed a respectable 111.7 points per-100 possessions for the game. Meanwhile, they held a top-10 offence to a reasonable 105.3 mark on the other end, an encouraging sign given how the defence has lagged at times lately.
The degree of difficulty also made for one of the more fun games of the season, if fun, rather than predictability, is your thing. Oh, and whether or not it stands as a good litmus test for the improvements to the offence, it made one thing patently clear: Nobody should ever, ever mess with Kyle Lowry.