The Toronto Raptors fall two games behind in the Eastern Conference Finals series. Kyle Lowry is doing terribly. Both losses were blowouts. Hope? If any of it remains, it’s running out quickly.
The Raptors lost 108-89 in game 2 against the Cleveland Cavaliers, making it the second consecutive game of going down without much of a fight in the second half, trying to save the day with three pointers (9-for-33), something that has been proven to be the wrong approach for them. But when everything you do ends up to be a dead end kind of solution, what other choice do the Raptors have?
It’s pretty simple. The Raptors rely heavily on the offense DeRozan and Lowry bring to the table. Without it, especially now that Jonas Valanciunas isn’t playing and there’s no big man who can bother the defense, the Raptors are lost. Even with the two of them functioning like they did at the end of the series against the Miami Heat, they’re at a serious disadvantage. And Lowry looking even worse than he did in the series against the Indiana Pacers doesn’t just hurt the Raptors, it completely cripples them and takes any chance of competing.
Lowry is averaging 9 points in two games, shooting 26.8% from the field, shooting 1-for-15 from downtown and he has only gotten to the line twice. The Raptors are complaining about the referees screwing them and being too lenient towards the Cavaliers, but a team getting more fouls called isn’t always about some conspiracy. It has a lot to do with Cleveland finding it easy to drive into the paint. No one on the Raptors is capable of stopping LeBron James or even slowing him down (unless they’re using elbows to the face, shoulder grabs and other classy methods), so they foul him. James shot 17 times from the line in game 2.
DeRozan’s numbers are better, but it seems the Raptors were only propelled when Lowry got going against Miami. He’s a better passer than his backcourt partner, and when the defense has no choice but to send more guys at him, everyone become better. DeRozan’s numbers aren’t bad at all in this series, but the Cavaliers seem to be giving it their all, helped by the fact that there’s no big man to worry about, to make Lowry miserable, and they’re succeeding.
No one on the Raptors end of the table is calling it quits. Dwane Casey seems angry and frustrated with the questions trying to get a reaction from him that translates into despair. Lowry himself said he needs to be better and make shots, but like we’ve heard before from him, it doesn’t sound defeatist. He’s calling it as is, and believes that they can turn it around in Toronto. They have to believe it, otherwise what’s the point of even showing up?
The problem for the Raptors is that there is nowhere on the floor where they have an advantage. Maybe their bench unit could be considered better in some constellations, but the Cavaliers have the luxury of keeping an All-Star caliber player on the floor at all times if it’s necessary. Toronto need to give their best players a rest sometimes, and when Corey Joseph was playing, things looked even worse. Consistent shooting from him or not, the Raptors need a much better Lowry, but the fact is that even more points and offense from their best player won’t be enough. Switching home courts can make an impact, but Cleveland seem to be strong in every place where the Raptors are weak, as the scent of a sweep becomes stronger and stronger.