The Toronto Raptors are in the midst of an injury crisis, but Kyle Lowry has stepped up his game in the absence of their stars.
An unfortunate inevitability in sports, injuries have ravaged the Toronto Raptors roster more than ever this season. Just about every rotational player on the team has missed some sort of time this season. Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka both missed a significant amount of time due to injuries, and then Fred VanVleet was shortly out injured.
Now, Pascal Siakam, Norman Powell, and Marc Gasol have all missed the last six games for the Toronto Raptors. In short, the Raptors are shorthanded, and at times, vulnerable. That point was no more evident than against the Boston Celtics on Christmas Day. The Raptors were outclassed on both ends of the court, and the Celtics star power took over the game.
Two days later, though, the Raptors got their revenge in a winning effort at the TD Garden, winning 113-97. That victory was led by Kyle Lowry, who scored 30 points on 10-of-17 shooting, adding eight assists, two steals and one block to his final tally. Lowry was incredible as the Raptors ran roughshod over one of the Eastern Conference elites.
The Raptors have needed bodies to step up over the last few weeks, and production has come from all depths of the roster. Recently, we’ve seen rookie Oshae Brissett deliver a duo of promising performances, while the raw but impressive Chris Boucher is developing with every performance.
There’s been one constant during this tough period: the ever-present Kyle Lowry. Only now, he’s taking his game to another level when the Toronto Raptors needed it most.
That’s not a phrase that evades Lowry often. He put in a star-studded performance for the Toronto Raptors in Game 6 of the NBA Finals – the title-clinching game against the Golden State Warriors and has routinely delivered for the Raptors in the biggest moments.
Right now, though, Lowry is being consistently delivering big performances. In a season where people expected him to slow down or struggle to replicate the success of last season – especially in the absence of Kawhi Leonard – Lowry is proving the doubters wrong and holding the Raptors together in this period of vulnerability.
During the last seven games, Lowry has been the driving force behind the Toronto Raptors. He’s averaged 24.6 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 8.3 assists per game, shooting 46-percent from the field and 43-percent from deep.
Pascal Siakam has been the focal point of the Raptors offense this season, but Lowry’s usage-percentage is higher than it has been in the last two seasons. The team is on his back at the moment, though.
Despite taking on much more of a workload, his efficiency has remained unfathomable. Lowry has a true shooting percentage of 62-percent in his last seven games, and that isn’t an anomaly. His true shooting percentage through 22 games this season is at 60-percent, the highest mark since the 2016-17 season.
A lot of Lowry’s buckets in the last seven games are coming out of his own desire and effort, over 59-percent of his made field-goals are coming unassisted. We’ve seen him attack mismatches and hit the rim, pull-up in transition, and take the ball to the hoop in transition. He’s been a revelation on offense.
And, while, his three-point shooting has been sensational, Lowry is doing it while taking – and making – the most difficult three-pointer possible: the above the break three. Lowry has made 26 three-pointers during this impressive stretch, and every one of them has come from above the break.
He’s doing it in a variety of ways too. Against the Celtics, Patrick McCaw had the ball in his hands often, with Lowry working off screens and knocking down threes all over the court. That’s been the case all season, Lowry has been one of the most effective players coming off screens in the NBA.
In 2.1 possessions per game, Lowry is averaging 1.15 points per possession, putting him in the 80th percentile among all players. That’s impressive. Of the 11 players who average more possessions per game, only Paul George and Doug McDermott are more effective.
It’s not just scoring where Lowry has upped his game. He has the desirable trait of being able to pull plus-minutes out of anyone he steps onto the court with, something that was on show against the Dallas Mavericks as the team came from 30 points down to win – the biggest comeback in franchise history.
Lowry and a bench unit consisting of Boucher, Terence Davis, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, and Malcolm Miller were able to put up 47 points in the fourth quarter and overturn the huge deficit. It was an unfathomable slice of history, and Lowry was leading the charge with 32 points and 10 assists on a 12-for-23 shooting night.
He and Boucher dissected the Mavericks in the pick-and-roll, manipulating space to create for himself and others. Lowry is running 5.9 pick-and-roll possessions per game, averaging 1.05 points per possession. That puts him in the 90th percentile among all players, yikes.
As always, it isn’t just his offensive numbers that sparkle, his hustle is unlike anyone else in the league. Lowry leads the league in charges drawn in the month of December, and is third overall in the league, despite only playing in 22 games. Not only that, he’s fourth in loose balls recovered in December too. His hustle knows no bounds, and it’s clear that he is doing all he can to get the Raptors over the hump and through this injury crisis.
For a career that goes beyond just the basic numbers, Kyle Lowry is putting forward a stretch where the numbers are doing all the talking.