Title: HOW THE RAPTORS CAN SURVIVE WITHOUT KYLE LOWRY
Date: February 28, 2017
Original Source: Vice
Synopsis: For my latest at Vice, I wrote about the injury to Kyle Lowry, how the Raptors can survive it, and what it might mean for playoff seeding.
The Toronto Raptors won their fourth consecutive game on Monday night, improving to 4-0 without injured All-Star point guard Kyle Lowry. Staying afloat without Lowry is not only unexpected but now absolutely necessary—he was slated to undergo surgery Tuesday, an operation that will keep him out at least four-to-five weeks, with the hope being that he can return a little ahead of the postseason, allowing him to get a few games in under his belt.
Losing one of the team’s stars and leaders is a huge blow, and the Raptors will be in tough regardless of what the early returns suggest. In three games since the All-Star break, each without Lowry, the Raptors have spent roughly half the time looking overmatched and incapable of creating offense. Still, they’ve managed a double-digit comeback in each, and in doing so they’ve provided a bit of a formula for how surviving without Lowry might be possible.
What stands out most about the Lowry-less victories is the degree to which DeMar DeRozan has had to take it upon himself to carry the offense. Already an exceptionally high-usage player, DeRozan’s now being asked for even more, and he’s delivering against even greater attention. Without the threat of Lowry to swing the ball to or to kick it out to, DeRozan’s job is infinitely harder when working solo. The Raptors are criminally tight on spacing and short on players who can create for themselves, which allows opposing defenses to load up on DeRozan and try to force the ball out of his hands—the Knicks were hard-doubling DeRozan right over halfcourt in the fourth quarter on Monday, for example, and a Bucks team that aggressively traps will surely ratchet up the blitzing on Saturday.
It hasn’t mattered so far.