Even before the Toronto Raptors’ 105-99 series-tying win over the Cleveland Cavaliers became official, Kyle Lowry was being praised for an offensive effort that would ultimately help to save the Raptors from falling into a 3-1 hole ahead of Game 5 and a return to the land of Lebron.
In this case, Toronto’s favorite floor general deserved it. Lowry’s 35 points, five rebounds, and five assists couldn’t have come at a better time, and when added to DeMar DeRozan’s 37 point outburst, the Raptors were simply too much for the mighty Cavaliers.
Following Toronto’s most recent win, Lowry told ESPN what winning this series against Cleveland would mean.
”I want this more than anything I’ve ever wanted in my NBA career—besides a ring,” said Lowry. ”My teammates, my organization and DeMar have confidence in me to make big shots, and I want to take big shots. I can live with people saying they’re bad shots or good shots. I can live with that. I’m happy with anything that comes with it, good, bad, or not.”
But, while both promising and impressive, the performance put forth by Lowry on Monday wasn’t exactly typical of what we’ve seen from the starting all-star during Toronto’s playoff run. And as he’s proven on more than one recent occasion, it’s not something that the reigning Atlantic Division champions can completely count on during what remains of this seven-game series.
Although it now seems like a completely different series, it was only a week ago that Lowry hit just four of his 14 shots from the field while also missing all seven attempts from long-range on his way to opening the Eastern Conference Finals with a less than pedestrian eight-point outing. Then, just 48 hours later, Lowry equaled that 4-14 mark from the floor and made just one of his eight attempts from three-point land in a 10-point effort in the Raptors’ Game 2 loss to the Cavs.
In fact, after missing each of his first four three-point attempts and committing five turnovers, Lowry was widely criticized for leaving the bench with just over two minutes remaining in the second half of Game 2—an incident that Lowry attempted to explain to the media following Toronto’s second straight blowout-loss to Cleveland.
”It’s whatever. I think it’s an overreaction, personally. I’ve done it countless times,” said Lowry. ”Maybe I went to go to the bathroom. I’ve done it before going to the bathroom. It’s just the magnitude of the situation, which makes it a lot bigger than what it really is. So next time I’ll clarify.”
Nevertheless, at the post-game press conference immediately following Monday night’s win, Raptors’ head coach Dwane Casey chose to focus on the positive when speaking about the offensive issues that have plagued Lowry throughout all three rounds of Toronto’s playoff run.
”He’s a little pit bull. I mean, you question him, and that’s when he rises to the occasion,” said Casey.
”I’ve seen it so many times. Throughout the playoffs, everybody has second-guessed him, and he’s always bounced back,” added Casey. ”He’s done that his whole life, through high school, through college, through his first few years in the NBA, and it’s made him the all-star that he is.”
To some extent, Casey speaks the truth about his point guard. But obviously, if Lowry hadn’t been struggling the way that he has throughout the playoffs, nobody would be second-guessing him.
Against the seventh-seeded Indiana Pacers in opening round of the playoffs, Lowry averaged just 13.9 points per game while shooting an unbelievably low 32 percent from the field and an unforgettable 16 percent from long-range. And despite playing a minimum of 36 minutes in all seven games, Lowry only matched his regular season average of 21.2 points a game on one occasion.
Then, in the opener of Toronto’s second-round series with the Miami Heat, Lowry finished with a whopping seven points after shooting a horrible 23 percent from the field and 14 percent from beyond the arc. As for Game 2, Lowry’s 18-point night and a Raptor win couldn’t disguise the sobering fact that he still shot just 32 percent from the field and matched the previous game’s 14 percent mark from three-point range.
On Tuesday, NBA junkies awoke to find countless articles labeling Lowry as resilient and heroic on every relevant site. More specifically, an article written by ESPN’s Mike Mazzeo entitled ”With His Back Against The Wall, Raptors’ G Kyle Lowry Delivers, As Usual’,’ truly ignored what’s been obvious for weeks.
Lowry, as well as everyone else, only exists ”with his back against the wall” during the playoffs. Even when a team is comfortably leading a seven-game series, which the Raptors have yet to experience, that’s just the way it is during the league’s second season.
The issue has nothing to do with Lowry’s on-court abilities, his status as an all-star, or whether or not he can score the way he did during the regular season. It’s about his ability to consistently be the scorer he was during the regular season now, in the playoffs—when his back has, and always will be, against the wall, and whether or not he’ll offensively abandon the Raptors when the stakes are at their absolute highest.
[Photo By Vaughan Ridley/Getty Images]