From one of the best backcourts in the league to the most inconsistent playoff stars in the East, regular-season DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry is gone and with the inconsistencies coming back it’s time to consider the possibility the Raptors duo might have a playoff curse.
On May 15th, 2016, the Raptors made franchise history. Defeating the Heat in game 7 by 27 points Raptors were finally on its way to being in the Eastern Conference finals for the first time ever.
Fast forward to present day and the Raptors were just blown out in game 3 of the first round by 27 points to the Milwaukee Bucks. With the Bucks having a 2-1 series lead fans have to be wondering what’s going on with the two superstars from the north? For two dominant regular season superstars, they played just like their Barney theme song introduction—Soft.
Dreadful shooting creates big problem
The Raptors shot an awful combined 33.8% and couldn’t get much help from DeRozan or Lowry. Together Toronto’s backcourt combined for 21 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists and 6 turnovers. In Lowry’s 10 attempts he made 4 baskets and DeRozan in 8 attempts made absolutely 0—the first time this has happened since 2015. This is unacceptable from the Raptors stars if they hope to advance to the next round.
In the regular-season Lowry and DeRozan are pictured as a serious threat in the east ready to overcome LeBron James and his Cleveland Cavaliers. In the post-season, it seems more like a duo trying to overcome their inconsistencies.
This season Lowry is shooting 46% from the field and a career-high 41% from the three. He still hasn’t been able to carry this into the post-season. Lowry is currently shooting 36% from the field and 25% from the three. He’s also a 42% career regular-season shooter, and with the post-season spotlight on him, Lowry’s numbers begin to diminish only shooting 38% in his career.
“It gets worse,” Lowry said, speaking of his post-season struggle. “It got worse (on Saturday).”
It’s a similar story with DeRozan, coming off his best season he is shooting 46% from the field. Although he wasn’t a great three-point shooter (26%) his ability to find and create shots made him one of the best shooting guards in the league. Like his other half, DeRozan can’t seem to carry this over to playoffs shooting 34%. He’s a 42% career regular-season shooter, with a decline in his post-season numbers shooting 38% in his career.
Raptors go as stars go
The Raptors are built heavily around their stars, they’re the core of the team. If the team is struggling, but the stars find their shooting stroke, then the team starts to play better with them on the court. It builds confidence and chemistry and things start to click when your stars are keeping the team involved. An example of this is game 2 of the Bucks series where Lowry and DeRozan combined for 45 points and both shot 50% from the field, leading to their first win of the series.
However, when things aren’t clicking then the wheels start to fall off and things don’t go as smoothly. DeRozan forces shots in desperation to end their scoring drought, Lowry dribbles too much in the paint and throws the ball away, less confidence in their shots and chemistry lacks within the team. An example of this is game 3’s loss in the Bucks series where both Lowry and DeRozan had a typical post-season off night. The Raptors ended up finding themselves in a 27 point deficit they couldn’t dig their way out of.
“It sounds like a yearly song we sing,” Raptors Coach Dwane Casey said, “but we’re going to go as (Lowry) and DeMar goes… We’ll make changes. We made changes going into the second half, but whoever goes in has to go in and make a difference, and we didn’t,”
Game 4 is the season
It’s a curse both Lowry and DeRozan can’t seem to overcome and has made game 4 a must win in the Bucks series. If a team can manage to stop your stars from being a factor in the game, then you’re left experimenting. Finding what lineups work, how to get the offense going as well as maintaining a high level of defense. The Raptors don’t do well, under those circumstances, they’ve been riding off the duo all year, and when Lowry got hurt, DeRozan stepped his game up to the next level and came off his best season.
In playoff time, however, Toronto’s duo raise questions more than they raise their level of play. It should come to no surprise that DeRozan and Lowry’s regular season hot-hands tend to disappear in playoffs.
“We’ve got to be better – myself, Kyle (Lowry), us as a team,” DeRozan said. “We have to get stops. We can’t have them shooting 53%.”
There’s no doubt if the Raptors backcourt can regain their confidence and play as their regular-season level, they’ll be a team you wouldn’t want to be matched up against in the post-season. But as of now, it can only be seen as a post-season curse taking effect on the two Raptors guards and Raptors will fall apart before they can even dream of an NBA title.