Among a lot of NBA fans, Kyle Lowry has a reputation as a playoff choker. The multiple 2nd round exits decree it so, and the LeBronto fiasco is still fresh in the fans’ minds. Though past years still carry a stench, while last year’s loss in the series to the Cavs was a heartbreak, it was hardly on Lowry. In the 2017-2018 playoffs Lowry averaged 17.4/8.5/4.3 on 50.8% shooting and an excellent 44.4% from three and 81.3% from the line. Compare that to his season averages of 16.2/6.9/5.6 for the regular season on 47.4/39.9/85.4 splits, and he’s been far from a negative. We can see that Kyle hit another gear for the playoffs, and that he did show up. His Raptors co-star just wasn’t able to do the same. With this in mind, and keeping in mind his previous inconsistencies in the playoffs, how will he do this year? Let’s take a look.
Kyle Lowry was relied upon as a scorer earlier in his Toronto career. The designated 2nd option behind DeMar DeRozan, he was given the reigns to our offense and asked to score, all while providing facilitation for the rest of the team. Nick Nurse said it best: “It’s so different this year. He doesn’t have to get 20 for us like he did in the past. He’s running the team, he’s the leader of the team no matter if he scores 4 or 34. And he can do both and we can still win. I think it’s going to be nice to see him playing calmly, and confidently. He believes in this team. I think it’s a really good position for him to be in.”
This is a good sign for the playoffs. When the Raptors’ offense was a one-two punch between DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry, it would collapse when teams aggressively double-teamed them. This was evident in the series against the Wizards and in the series against the Cavs as well. Late game ISOs worked against Washington, but against elite players (LeBron, really) the guards buckled. Last year the offense was predicated on increased ball movement. However, in late game and pressure situations, the team returned to Casey isolation sets, which failed once again.
However this year things are different. In the playoffs, opponents won’t be able to double any player, as the revamped Raptors have a plethora of offensive options. A huge factor in this for Lowry is the emergence of Pascal Siakam, is an amazing 2nd option that can get hot on any given night. Gasol can score if needed. Danny Green has been money from three all year. Kawhi Leonard, a bonafide two way superstar, can score from anywhere and everywhere. The multi-variable offense will open up space for Lowry to do what he does best.
What does Lowry do best? Well, let’s take a look at his highlights.
Lowry can shoot threes and is a fantastic playmaker. That’s his bread and butter. He can still drive, but he doesn’t do it as much as he did years ago. Lowry adapted to a lineup with 4 different players who can get hot on any given night, and became more of a 3rd option, and sometimes 4th, depending on who has the hot hand. While the box score is useful as a way to measure efficiency and otherwise, lots of things don’t necessarily show up. A box score that a fan sees after a game doesn’t show the whole picture.
Lowry does all the things that the box score can’t show: keeps the offense moving, gets hockey assists, draws charges and plays decent defense (definitely no Andrew Wiggins). We cannot forget about his leadership either. Everyone on this Raptors team looks up to Kyle on way or another. Kyle is the tone setter, the leader. When Kawhi gives a shout out to anyone on the team it’s usually Kyle or Danny. Kyle is the heart and soul of these Raptors, and he is the perfect leader to get them fired up in the playoffs.
How Kyle Lowry will fare these playoffs? I’m not worried. Since he doesn’t have to worry about scoring, even if he does the bare minimum and passes the ball around, the Raptors have players who can score and pick up the slack. I’m never worried about Kyle giving his all in a game. With so much pressure lifted off his shoulder’s Kyle will thrive even if his scoring isn’t picked up. Without h,im the whole thing crumbles: Our team just isn’t as cohesive without him, and that will show during the playoffs. Kyle Lowry will show up: Simply because the system allows him to be less of a scorer and more of a playmaker.