Toronto Raptors: A Brief History of Kyle Lowry and Game Two

Toronto Raptors - Kyle Lowry (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
Toronto Raptors - Kyle Lowry (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images) /

Kyle Lowry’s shooting performance is being pointed to as one of the main reasons the Toronto Raptors lost to the Orlando Magic in game one. What does Lowry’s record in game twos tell us about what he might do on Tuesday?

Though Saturday’s loss left the Toronto Raptor faithful in disbelief (I won’t say speechless – did you see Twitter after the game?), conjuring up playoff heartache from years past, hopeful fans are now looking to game two and how the Raptors might right the ship.

Much of the focus will be on which Kyle Lowry shows up. Might it be the Lowry that shot out of a cannon at the beginning of the season, playing aggressive, efficient basketball, attacking the basket and averaging double digits in assists?

Or will it be the Lowry we saw on Saturday?

Lowry, as I’m sure you know, had zero points against Orlando. He went 0 for 7 from the field including a disappointing 0-6 from deep. And while Lowry impacted the game in other ways, dishing out eight assists, grabbing seven rebounds and two steals, Raptor fans know he will have to do better moving forward in terms of putting the ball in the basket –  the long-term playoff success of the team may depend on it.

Nick Nurse is confident Lowry will bounce back in game two.

"“I think [Lowry] had some really good looks that he’s gonna normally knock down,” said coach Nick Nurse. “We need to get him involved a little bit offensively and we need some points from him… [But] I look down and I see he was a plus-12 in the plus-minus and he had zero points, so he was still impacting the game greatly. I’m sure he’ll bounce back and play a little bit better next game.”"

Nurse has to say that of course. Support his guy, display the utmost confidence in your squad, that kind of thing.

But what does a look back at Lowry’s game twos tell us about the chances for a Lowry bounce back this year?

Notoriously Slow Starter

Over the past five first-round playoff series (2014-2018), Lowry has been a slow starter when it comes to the first games of the series. In game ones, Lowry made only 18 of 61 field goals. His field goal percentage averaged out at 28.8 percent.

In game twos, Lowry has fared only slightly better. He has hoisted up fewer shots and made only a handful more, going 20 for 56 in the second game of the series (37 percent from the field).

From deep, he has attempted 28 threes in game ones, making only FIVE of them. That’s a shooting percentage of 16-percent from downtown. Yesterday, he missed all six from beyond the arc.

In comparison, he has taken fewer threes in game twos but hasn’t improved, hitting only three for 22 in those five series. His three-point shooting percentage in game twos is 16 percent.

In fact, in three of those five games, Lowry failed to hit a single shot from beyond the arc. His best three-point shooting game was just a 2-5 performance in game one against Milwaukee. He’s made a total of three, three-point attempts in five games.

Perhaps it’s the jitters, perhaps its nerves or maybe he is forcing bad shots up. Whatever it is, what is becoming apparent is that Lowry might need to steer clear of shooting from deep early on in series until he gets his sea legs. And history tells us he might not shoot much better in game two against Orlando. So, Lowry will have to find other ways to be a scorer.

Getting to the Charity Stripe More

Where Lowry does seem to improve in game twos is his ability to get high percentage shots closer to the rim and to draw more fouls. In game ones he went to the charity stripe 22 times, making 14 of them. Yesterday he made it there twice, missing both.

In game twos, we see a drastic improvement, with Lowry getting to the line 34 times making 30 free throws. In four of those five-game twos, Lowry got to the stripe six or more times. In 2016, against the Pacers, he went 10 for 10. The next year, he went eight of nine from the free throw line. In those games, he scored 18 and 22 points respectively.

Does becoming more aggressive and attacking the paint help get Lowry going? Well, if you know Lowry, you know that when he plays with that chip, that bulldog nature, he excels. And as any NBA player will tell you, getting to the line helps you get into your game, find a rhythm, find your confidence and slow the game down.

Look for Lowry to look for shots closer to the basket, drawing contact and getting to the line more frequently Tuesday night.

The Shooting Will Come, Continue to be Productive Elsewhere

And, of course, Lowry does not just have to be a scorer.

One area that Lowry has always been Lowry, in either game one or two, is as a facilitator. In game ones, he has averaged nearly seven assists per game. In game twos, he has averaged slightly more, totaling nearly 40 assists in five games. No matter what problems he has faced scoring-wise, he has always been able to dish the ball and get his team involved.

On Saturday, Lowry couldn’t hit the side of a barn with his shot but had seven assists and only one turnover. The Raptors have an elite player on their team in Leonard and an emerging superstar in Siakam. They have plenty of threats from deep and a couple of bigs who can score.

Lowry is smart enough to know that he must keep them involved. Bad shooting nights will happen. But they won’t persist with a team like Toronto.

Rebounding is another area Lowry has excelled at come playoff time. Lowry has always been a crafty rebounder. In game twos, he has been dynamite averaging nearly six a game. Against this Magic team, rebounding is going to be at a premium. The Raps will need all hands on deck. Lowry pulled in seven on Saturday, near the top of all Raptors. Toronto will need him to continue to be crafty and pulling down boards he has no business getting his hands on.

One thing  Lowry might be urged to do more of, is to get out and run. Orlando is a tough team to beat in the half court. If they had their wish, they’d slow the game down and utilize their length and strength on the defensive end. On Saturday, they forced the Raps to 98.5 possessions per 48 minutes. Toronto, conversely, are a team that excels in transition. Look for Lowry to see if he can push his team a bit more than he did on Saturday.

At the end of the day, Lowry is going to be fine and so will the Raptors. As Thomas Valentine wrote about yesterday on Raptors Rapture, Kyle Lowry was Toronto’s best player last year, scoring in double digits in nine out ten games played. There are areas he can and will improve upon. Count on it.

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This is a very good Raptors team. Kyle Lowry and company will make the necessary adjustments that they need to. No one said it was going to be easy. Game one proved that. But it was only one game.

Now, let’s sit back and see what they do in game two.