Should the Raptors be Concerned About Playoff Kyle Lowry?
It happens across all sports. When the playoffs start and the lights shine the brightest, some of the game’s biggest stars take their game to another level, and others crumble under the pressure. Tom Brady seems invincible in the playoffs while Matt Ryan struggles. Madison Bumgarner doesn’t even seem human in the playoffs while Clayton Kershaw comes apart at the seams. Should the Raptors be concerned about Kyle Lowry in the playoffs? He is consistently one of the top players in the league during the regular season, yet his playoff track record is poor, and he was downright awful in game 1 of the playoffs this year. It may only be one game, but it’s one more game proving that the past may not be a fluke.
Lowry first made the playoffs in the 2008-2009 season in which he came to the Rockets mid-season. He was a valuable role player off the bench, averaging 7.6 points, 3.5 assists, and 2.8 rebounds per game, shooting 47.5% from the floor. Once the playoffs hit, he wasn’t so valuable. In two playoff series, he averaged 5.3 points, 2.5 assists, and 2.9 rebounds, shooting just 33.3% from the floor. Considering he was just a role player at the time, the difference in performance didn’t have a major impact on the team, but it would turn out to be a foreshadowing of things to come.
The next playoff appearance for Lowry was in the 2013-2014 season with the Raptors. By this time, Lowry had blossomed into one of the better point guards in the game. He averaged 17.9 points, 7.4 assists, and 4.7 rebounds per game for the season. In the playoffs, he actually increased his scoring to 21.1 points per game, but his other numbers across the board were down. His assists we down to 4.7 from 7.4, his shooting was 40.4%, down from 42.3%, his steals were down to 0.9 from 1.5 per game, and he was committing 3.9 fouls per game in the playoffs. He was also turning the ball over more, up to 2.9 turnovers per game in the playoffs after averaging 2.5 per game during the regular season. On the surface, his 21.1 points and 4.7 assists per game looked pretty good, but he wasn’t the same Kyle Lowry from the regular season, who was more efficient on offense, played better defense, and did a better job of getting teammates involved.
In the 2014-2015 playoffs, the Raptors got swept in the first round, and looking at Lowry’s performance, it is no wonder why they got swept. His regular season numbers were right on par from the previous year mentioned above, but in the playoffs, he averaged a dismal 12.3 points and 4.8 assists on 31.6% shooting from the floor, 21.7% from three-point range, and committed 4.5 fouls per game and 3.0 turnovers per game. Maybe this is turning into a trend…
In the 2015-2016 playoffs, the Raptors came in as the top contenders to take down Lebron James and the Cavs in the east. Coming off a spectacular regular season where the Raptors won 56 games, Lowry had taken his game to yet another level. He increased his regular season scoring to 21.2 points per game while still dishing out 6.4 assists and keeping his shooting efficiency the same and his turnovers under 3.0 per game. He had also reached another level defensively where he set a career high with 2.1 steals per game, and was committing fouls at a career low rate at just 2.7 in his 37 minutes per game.
Come playoff time, Lowry was so bad that the Raptors almost blew the opening series to the 7th seeded Pacers, before coming away with a tight game 7 win. Lowry averaged just 13.9 points on 31.6% shooting and 16.3% from 3 for the series. If the Raptors were going to make a run, he was going to have to turn it around and fast. He played better in the 2nd round against the Heat, he averaged 23.4 points per game, but his assists were down, shooting efficiency was down, and he was committing a lot of fouls while turning the ball over too much. In the end, it took another 7 games, but the Raptors were set to square off against the Cavs in the east finals.
In the east finals, Lowry had much improved shooting efficiency, shooting 47.4% from the floor, but he seemed to lack confidence because of his shaky performance to this point. He averaged 20.2 points per game for the series, but that was padded by two games of 35 points, one of which was in a blowout loss, masking the 3 games where he scored 13 or less. His assists were down to just 4.2 per game, his turnovers were up to 3.5 per game, and his steals were at a remarkably low 0.8 per game. In the end, the Cavs won in 6 games, and the first place you need to look is Lowry. His scoring and aggressiveness were down, he wasn’t getting teammates involved, his defense wasn’t nearly as good as the regular season, and his turnovers were too high. When the Raptors most needed Lowry to be regular season all-star Kyle Lowry, he was okay but not great.
Fast forward to this season. Lowry set a career high with 22.4 points per game to go along with 7 assists per game and at a career high in efficiency. He shot the ball extremely well at 46.4% from the floor and 41.2% from three-point range. As a whole, it was probably the best regular season of Lowry’s career. The Raptors come in as the team best equipped to take down the Cavs after loading up at the trade deadline, all the have to do is get by the 42-40 Bucks in the first round. What happened in game 1? Lowry had 4 points on 2-11 shooting and the Raptors lost by 14 points, and the entire basketball world is thinking here we go again.
Whatever happened in game 1, Lowry needs to forget about it really fast, and just be Kyle Lowry in the rest of the series. The Raptors are too good to lose a series to the Bucks if Lowry just plays his game. Most importantly, they need Lowry to be the real Lowry if they make it to the 2nd round to face the Cavs. His performance from last year was not good enough, and if he’s not himself, the Raptors won’t win the series. Some people may still give Lowry the benefit of the doubt, but if his struggles continue for even another couple games, just remember we told you so.
What do you think? Should the Raptors be concerned, or is it possibly just a 1 game fluke? The track record isn’t very good, but can Lowry prove himself this year? Comment and let us know! Stay tuned for more current sports stories. Don't forget to follow us on social media. You can find us on Facebook, Instagram @beyondthemetrics, and Twitter @byondthemetrics