This is going to be a long road to my point…but here is the road:
Kyle Lowry’s tenure as a Raptor has been great and most people agree with that statement. Lowry has averaged about 17.4 points, 7 assists and 5 rebounds per game in his seven regular seasons as a Raptor. He has also been a plus on the defensive end and has racked up 5 all star appearances as well as an All-NBA third team selection in 2016. However, Lowry’s play in the playoffs is a much more divisive topic.
On one hand, Lowry is horrendously inconsistent, inefficient and at times his body language in the playoffs is off-putting to the naked eye. This was no more evident and on display then in the last couple days when in game 1 of the Raptors 2019 playoff matchup versus the Orlando Magic, Kyle Lowry became the subject of memes due to failing to score a single, solitary point in that game while allowing DJ Augustin to score 25 points on scorching hot shooting splits. The worst part is that Lowry also appeared to not take ownership of the loss when he was quoted as saying:
“It’s happened before. I’m a guy that plays basketball the right way. Just because I didn’t score doesn’t mean I didn’t play the right way… because we lost it looks worse.” quote courtesy of Josh Lewenberg on twitter.
This makes Lowry maddening to watch in the playoffs sometimes because he can be so useful to a championship level roster if his play in the regular season translated over to the playoffs. Here’s the thing though; on the other side of the coin, when you look at Kyle Lowry’s playoffs as a whole he isn’t that much worse compared to the post-season and that’s a fact.
People are usually flabbergasted at discovering that Kyle Lowry averages more points per game in the playoffs as a Raptor than in the regular season. In terms of his efficiency for his career, it only drops by about seven percent in the playoffs relative to his regular season numbers. Also, he’s extremely valuable to his teammates during the postseason. I’m not a huge fan of +/- in basketball but in the playoffs Lowry’s on-off plus minus is at +16.6! In other words, Kyle Lowry is pretty much on par for the course in his Raptors playoff career when measured up against his regular season numbers. Plus, pun intended, let’s not forget that in game 2 of the very same 2019 playoff series versus the Orlando Magic Lowry bounced back with a 22 point, 7 assists performance.
Now here’s what I’m not saying:
I’m not saying Lowry is not worse in the playoffs, he clearly is.
I’m not saying Kyle Lowry’s inconsistency is not an issue for this team, it clearly is.
And I’m not saying Kyle Lowry’s perceived attitude in the playoffs is not concerning, it clearly is although perception is not always reality.
But what I am saying is: if you look at numbers over the course of his career as a Raptor, and his playoff numbers as a Raptor, there isn’t that much of a change – but what *does* change is the fan attitude towards the player in these type of scenarios. Extra scrutiny in the playoffs is nothing new but I really am concerned for the psyche of the Toronto sports fan because it’s already fragile. Also as a side note, I know what the detractors are going to say; something like “the sample size is too broad” and “you need to analyze game to game” and sure that is true, but that’s where the point comes in that Toronto sports fans rarely look at the big picture and they are notoriously prone to overreacting at the first signs of adversity.
Case in point, the Raptors have lost to the LeBron-led Cleveland Cavaliers in the playoffs each of the last three years as they were expected to do. With the exception of maybe the 2018 playoffs, no one in their right mind really thought Toronto could beat the Cavs. However, with each loss in those rounds against Cleveland, fans clamored mightily for Dwane Casey to be fired and for the team’s core to be jettisoned and traded. Best part is the management did the cardinal sin of listening to a fanbase and fired Dwane Casey then traded DeMar DeRozan for a top 5 player (which is a ninja-like maneuver), and the fanbase still got mad.
Actually no, I changed my mind.
Best part is that those same fans lacked the foresight to see that after 2018-2019 season – with or without DeMar DeRozan and Dwane Casey, the Raptors were probably going to have to start fresh after this season anyway but now they have a better shot at winning a championship without them.
Now my point is not that it’s okay if the Raptors lose round one to the Magic and Kyle struggles. It’s also not that fans shouldn’t be passionate or emotionally involved. My point is that the faithful need to be dedicated yet not so easily swayed, and that one should always consider the bigger picture. So while it’s okay to criticize Kyle Lowry for not scoring, tweeting about trading him after one mediocre game is a little too much. The next time you want to take to social media to trade Kyle Lowry after a bad playoff game, just take a deep breath and let yourself think about the road he traveled to get here and why it’s always been about the bigger picture.
Stats are via: basketball-reference.com