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NBA Toronto Raptors Terrence Ross, Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, DeMarre Carroll

Raptors Are Fighting To Be The Next Man Up In Toronto Again

Toronto Raptors head coach Dwane Casey has one of those nice problems to have. He has too many deserving players and not enough minutes to go around leaving a group of guys fighting to be the next man up when opportunity finally knocks.

Even with the departure of starter Luis Scola, back up center Bismack Biyombo and heavily used fill-in James Johnson, finding meaningful minutes for players outside of the team’s top nine players will be a challenge unless someone gets hurt.

Plus, if Casey can, he’d like to find more minutes for some of the guys in his top nine, but if all of them were to just average playing the minutes they had last season, he’d have to create about 10 more minutes a game just to do that.

The Raptors will feature a three guard rotation with Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan and Cory Joseph soaking up virtually all of the minutes at the one and the two spots. These three very durable guards averaged so many minutes last season (98.5 minutes combined out of 96 available) that the only way Casey could keep them on the floor was to play them together. In 74 games Casey ran a lineup of Lowry, Joseph, DeRozan, Patrick Patterson and one of Jonas Valanciunas or Bismack Biyombo for an average of 3.2 minutes per game.

Heading into this season, the developing Joseph could see even more than the 25.6 minutes he averaged in his first go around in Toronto and since the All-Stars DeRozan and Lowry aren’t likely to be cut back, those minutes will have to come from somewhere (someone) else.

The one player Casey has already hinted at trying to “protect” this season so he’s available in good shape for the playoffs is DeMarre Carroll. Carroll averaged 30.2 minutes, but only played in 26 games due to injury and has only recently returned to playing five-on-five basketball in practice. Known as the Junkyard Dog 2.0, Carroll won’t exactly be excited about playing 24-26 minutes a game, but he’s secure in his contract and a team player. Besides, Casey knows he has to create minutes for the very deserving Norman Powell somehow, someway.

With very limited opportunities expected to be available at shooting guard, Casey will be left searching for ways to get Powell and three-point specialist and all around super tease Terrence Ross 24 minutes a game each this season. Casey can create time by playing small ball and the Raptors, like so many other NBA teams these days, have featured very successful lineups of guards and wings with one big man on the court.

Ross led the Raptors bench in three-point attempts last season (4.6), averaging 9.9 points in 23.9 minutes. As much as Ross can frustrate the fans for not doing more, Toronto needs his ability to stretch the floor. Post All-Star break, Powell averaged 9.6 points in 22.8 minutes and hit on 45.5 percent of his 3.1 three-point attempts, plus Casey loves his physical brand of defense.

The squeeze may come with the big men, although it won’t be easy to sit these guys down either.

Jonas Valanciunas was third in Raptors scoring (12.8 points) in just 26 minutes per game last season and he came up huge in the postseason before he was injured. Now entering his fifth NBA season, the pressure will be on to find JV more playing time. It’s easy to project Valanciunas at his 2016 pre-injury playoff numbers of 15 points, 12.1 rebounds, a steal and 1.4 blocks if he gets 28 to 30 minutes a night.

The crunch may come with Jared Sullinger and Patrick Patterson. Sullinger averaged 23.6 minutes a game in Boston putting up 10.3 points and a team best 8.3 rebounds. He replaces Scola (21.5 minutes per game) at starting power forward, plus Sullinger is expected to spend some time at backup center. Patterson played 25.6 minutes a game last year. However, both players are on expiring contracts and will be pushing hard for a bigger role this time around.

Sullinger and Patterson are highly motivated and very talented players, so Casey isn’t likely to find any minutes here to hand out to someone else. If anything, these two guys should be expected to earn more playing time than last season. It just isn’t that easy to see where the additional minutes for them are going to come from.

Then there’s the crew fighting to be the next man up if and when Casey needs someone.

Sitting on the sidelines and hoping to make an impression on coach Casey at training camp are centers Lucas Nogueira, rookie (9th pick) Jacob Poeltl and rookie (27th pick) center/power forward Pascal Siakam (who is eerily similar to Biyombo except this kid can score too). In other circumstances, on a team without so many quality big men or not fighting for a high playoff seed, these guys would play.

Nogueira has natural gifts of length, hops and quicks that are hard to find. He has the ability to be the best screen setter on the team, the potential to be a three-point threat or to feed the post from the outside for dunks and layups, and a is natural shot blocker. He just has to stay healthy and put it all together for longer than a quarter at a time.

Poeltl was described as the least likely player to be a bust in this year’s draft, a back-handed compliment to be sure, but not wrong. He has all the earmarks of a solid traditional NBA center. He might even become better than JV given time to develop.

Siakam is the guy everyone is likely to get excited about. High energy with more skill than he’s been given credit for, this is the guy to watch in preseason – even if he’s the one pegged as most likely to see time in the 905 right away. There’s just a “Norman Powell-like” feel to this kid.

Just maybe Casey makes the effort/sacrifice to create a few minutes for one of these three big men at backup center?

There never really was an issue with Delon Wright or Bruno Caboclo.

Wright won’t be available until December and he might not even get backup minutes at point guard if Lowry or Joseph aren’t available. Powell looked just as good as Wright running the offense with the 905 last season.

Is Bruno still two years away? t.b.d.

Of the six guys in training camp hoping to land the 15th roster spot, 26-year-old 905 Wing E.J. Singler has the three-point stroke and all around game that would make him an ideal replacement for last season’s injury reserve James Johnson. However, nothing is for certain with this group.

Toronto Raptors head coach Dwane Casey has a lot of decisions to make before the regular season starts, but they feel more like tweaks than earth shattering moves. His biggest issue may be trying to keep everybody happy with the number of minutes he has available and to keep guys fighting to get more.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 


 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan

Raptors Ujiri Tells DeRozan and Lowry To Think About Championships

Toronto Raptors All-Stars DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry are coming off career years and team President Masai Ujiri wants them to set their goals higher, to start thinking about championships as reported by Lauren La Rose on CBC Sports.

“What an unbelievable year for both of them,” Ujiri said of the duo. “They’re All-Stars, they get to the Eastern Conference Finals, they’re Gold medalists.

“When I texted with them and we talked about the championship, that’s where their minds should be, to be set. They’re building themselves to be that caliber of players. They should start thinking about competing to the highest level.”

The Toronto Raptors are coming off a 56 win season that saw them just two wins away from representing the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals and they head into this season with an upgrade at starting power forward as the Celtics leading rebounder Jared Sullinger steps in to replace the 36-year-old Luis Scola.

Both DeRozan and Lowry were Eastern Conference All-Stars for the second time in their careers last season. DeRozan (23.5 points per game) only trailed LeBron James for the scoring lead in the East. Kyle Lowry ranked as the third best player in the Eastern Conference in Sports Illustrated’s top 100 NBA players and he was noticeably better than the Cavs Kyrie Irving in this summer’s run to Olympic Gold in Rio.

While the Cavaliers will significantly outspend the Raptors again this season, only the width of the gap is left to be determined when the Cavs finally get J.R. Smith inked to a new contract, their advantage may not be as insurmountable as it’s perceived to be. Cleveland took first place in the East last season with just one more win than Toronto. It is only the presence of LeBron James that makes this team stand out in their Conference.

Head-to-head Toronto won the regular season series with Cleveland last year 2-1, taking two close games in Toronto and getting blown out at the Q. The Conference Finals took a similar turn with Cleveland winning two blowouts at home, then losing two blowouts at the Air Canada Centre before finally putting the underdogs away in Games Five and Six.

Unfortunately the Raptors were without the services of a healthy Jonas Valanciunas for the first four games against the eventual NBA Champion Cavaliers and Valanciunas only saw limited run in the final two games and it mattered.

More than even the points the Raptors starting center was putting up in the playoffs before he was hurt, Valanciunas did shoot 7-9 for 15 points in 36 total minutes over the final two games against the Cavs, Toronto missed his rebounding as Cleveland hammered Toronto on the boards 255 to 210 over the six game series. Valanciunas was averaging 15 points and 12.1 rebounds per game in the playoffs before he was hurt.

It should be noted the Raptors were bailed out on the glass at home by monster performances from Bismack Biyombo who grabbed 40 rebounds total in Games Three and Four of the Conference Finals.  Unfortunately Biyombo only averaged 4.3 rebounds over three games in Cleveland.

However, where the Cavaliers are a veteran laden team, the Raptors are still building. Toronto’s anticipated nine man rotation this season averages just 5.3 years of NBA experience and the balance of the roster will have two years or less in the league.

“We have 10 players who are 25 years and younger. We are a growing team,” said Ujiri.

“Many things have to come together, but you had what we had last year.”

Toronto is going to have to be very lucky on the injury front or some of these young guys will need to take big steps in their development over the course of the coming season if the Raptors are going to challenge the Cavaliers when it counts in next spring’s playoffs. Unless of course Ujiri has something up his sleeve to add some proven veteran help by the trade deadline.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 



 

NBA Toronto Raptors Kyle Lowry

Raptors Kyle Lowry Beats Out James Harden For All-NBA Third Team

The National Basketball Association announced Thursday that Toronto Raptors All-Star guard Kyle Lowry has been named to the All-NBA Third Team with 35 Second Team votes and 50 Third Team votes for a total of 155 points beating out the Rockets All-Star James Harden who earned 106 points.

Toronto Raptors Kyle Lowry NBA All-Star

This is Lowry’s first selection to the All-NBA team. He joins Vince Carter and Chris Bosh as the only players in franchise history to receive the honour. Carter was named to the All-NBA Second Team in 2001 and Third Team in 2000. Bosh was named to the All-NBA Second team in 2006-07.

The Raptors other All-Star guard DeMar DeRozan received 26 points towards the All-NBA Team voting.

Lowry averaged a career-high 21.2 points, a team-high 6.4 assists and was tied for third in the NBA averaging 2.05 steals in 77 games. He shot a career-best .388 (212-for-547) from three-point range, while ranking fifth in the NBA for three-pointers made.

Lowry was named a starter for the 2016 NBA All-Star Game in Toronto for a second straight year. He and teammate DeMar DeRozan were named co-winners for Eastern Conference Players of the Month honours in January after averaging 45.6 points, 10.9 assists, and 9.7 rebounds while propelling Toronto to a franchise-record 11 straight wins (January 6-30). Lowry then scored a career-high 43 points February 26 in a 99-97 victory over Cleveland to earn Eastern Conference Player of the Week honours for games played February 22-28. He was named Eastern Conference Player of the week again for games played March 14-20 after averaging 26.2 points, 6.8 assists and 6.4 rebounds in five games.

Joining Lowry on the All-NBA Third team are Paul George (Indiana), LaMarcus Aldridge (San Antonio), Andre Drummond (Detroit) and Klay Thompson (Golden State).

The All-NBA Teams were chosen by a panel of sportswriters and broadcasters in the United States and Canada. The media voted for All-NBA First, Second and Third Teams by position with points awarded on a 5-3-1 basis. Voters were asked to select two guards, two forwards and one center for each team, choosing players at the position they play regularly. Players who received votes at multiple positions were slotted at the position where they received the most votes.

NBA All-NBA Team

All-NBA 2nd team

All-NBA 3rd Team

Other players receiving votes, with point totals (First Team votes in parentheses): James Harden, Houston, 106; Paul Millsap, Atlanta, 84; Anthony Davis, New Orleans, 76 (1); Al Horford, Atlanta, 76 (2); Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota, 44; DeMar DeRozan, Toronto, 26; Hassan Whiteside, Miami, 24 (1); Isaiah Thomas, Boston, 20; Pau Gasol, Chicago, 16 (2); Jimmy Butler, Chicago, 12; Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas, 8; John Wall, Washington, 7; Kemba Walker, Charlotte, 6; Tim Duncan, San Antonio, 3; Gordon Hayward, Utah, 3; Dwight Howard, Houston, 3; Carmelo Anthony, New York, 2; Marc Gasol, Memphis, 2; Andrew Bogut, Golden State, 1; Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers, 1; Brook Lopez, Brooklyn, 1; Tony Parker, San Antonio, 1.

 

 

Featured image courtesy of Paul Saini
Instagram:  @fylmm.lifestyle and  @paul_saini

 

Defend Territory Toronto Raptors NBA Playoffs 2016

Raptors Look To Their Home Crowd To Beat The Cavs

The Toronto Raptors enjoy a significant home court advantage inside the Air Canada Centre and outside Gate Five in Jurassic Park. It’s loud inside and it’s loud outside, so loud in fact that even the Raptors have struggled with the noise level in every Playoff Game One at home in the Dwane Casey era. Visiting teams can’t help but notice the crowd impact.

Jurassic Park Toronto Raptors

“Have you been here before?” DeMar DeRozan responded incredulously to a media inquiry this morning.

There will likely be an even higher level of electricity in the air and overwhelming noise inside the building and outside Gate Five for the first ever Eastern Conference Final game held in Toronto. The Raptors will need every advantage to beat the Cavs.

“I think being at home will help us,” Casey said after practice on Friday.

“We got our home crowd energy to feed off,” DeRozan said. “Understanding we’ve been great at home and we’ve kind of been in this position before. Probably not at this magnitude, but understanding that this is an opportunity for us to go home where we are comfortable at.”

Despite their Game One record in the postseason, the Raptors have played significantly better at home when the pressure is on. In the last two series, they had to win Game Five and Game Seven at the ACC to advance and they dominated after bad Game Four and Game Six losses. They have been here before, just not in an Eastern Conference Final.

“We’ll make shots tomorrow,” Lowry said on Friday. “We are going to be at home. We are going to play better. We got pride. We are going to play hard.”

The Raptors will give their all in front of their home crowd. The only question at this point is, will it be enough?

“Every game we get an opportunity to play is a must-win-game from here on out,” DeRozan said.

Toronto has to take both Game Three and Game Four at the ACC to get back in this series. It’s a steep hill to climb, but they’ve beaten the Cavaliers in Toronto twice before this season with the help of some fabulous crowd support. It’s just another opportunity with much higher stakes.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 


NBA Toronto Raptors Kyle Lowry

Raptors Showing Frustration For The First Time

By Frank McLean

I was not in the Quicken Loans Arena Thursday night to see the second game of this Eastern Conference Final. I watched it from the comfort of home, but I didn’t need to be in Cleveland live to see for myself that for the first time this year that dreaded F word coaches hate use “Frustration” is showing in the Toronto Raptors.

That will happen to team who had 56 wins in the regular season and had not lost two games in row since March 23rd and 25th. This team has had more highs than lows this year.

The Raptors had been consistent all season. In fact, it’s something that head coach Dwane Casey preaches so much that team is probably sick of hearing it.

“If you are consistent you don’t have these highs and lows,” Casey said in Cleveland prior to Game Two.

“If you get emotionally high and emotionally low, you are never going to be successful in this league. You got to have consistent emotional approach and a consistent physical approach. I think that plays into us bouncing back throughout the year.”

However, human nature being such, when you have constant success and every time things start to go wrong you able to figure it out, and then suddenly everything you try doesn’t work, that dreaded “Frustration” can show up.

That’s what you see in the Raptors after two spankings in Cleveland and the player showing it the worst is point guard Kyle Lowry.

Lowry’s playoff statistics are like looking at a heart beats on an EKG graph. When Lowry can score 20 or more points in game, and he has only done it in five of their 16 playoff games, the Raptors are 4-1. Seven times he has scored 12 or fewer points in these playoffs.

Lowry is starting to show it in front of the world. With 2:30 left in the second quarter in Game Two, and score tied 46 all, he headed for the locker room. He said wasn’t hurt after the game, he just needed to decompress.

While he was in the room the Cavaliers went on a 12-2 run to close the first half.

It wasn’t just Lowry who stood out, the body language of the whole team as they headed into the locker room at half-time looked like the victims of a drive by shooting. The Cavaliers offensive power can make you look like that.

“You may be seeing something I don’t see,” Casey said after the game. “I don’t see quit. They beat us two games, but I don’t it’s not over yet.”

Casey is right the series is not over. The job of Casey and the rest of his coaching staff is to not yell and scream at their players, because it’s not their fault the Cavaliers are the better team. What they have to do is their best job of convincing them that it’s us against the world. The Raptors aren’t that bad. Counting the playoffs, they have won 64 basketball games this year, and in the regular season they did beat Cleveland in two out of three times (both times in Toronto).

But in reality, this is how a team becomes playoff tested, getting beat by a team that was expected to be in the NBA Finals. When this series is over, the Raptors will know what it will take to contend for a championship in the future.

Being around this team like I have all year I expect them to come out flying at home in Game Three trying to win one for the home fans, but the frustration is starting to show. It’s only human nature when you finally run into an opponent who is better than you and you can’t find anything to stop them.

 

 

DeMar DeRozan & Frank McLeanVeteran journalist Frank McLean has covered nearly every Raptors game in Toronto since their inaugural season at the Skydome back in 1995-96. He has seen it all. The good, the bad and the really bad and he is one of the very few journalists in Toronto that has kept coming back for more.

Featured image courtesy of Paul Saini
Instagram:  @fylmm.lifestyle and  @paul_saini

 

 

 


NBA Toronto Raptors DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry

Raptors Won Because DeMar DeRozan Played Hurt

By Frank McLean

The Toronto Raptors won game five of their series with the Miami Heat Wednesday night the old fashioned Raptors way, DeMar DeRozan was shooting the basketball and it was going in the hoop.

It sounds simplistic, but when DeRozan and his partner in crime at the guard position Kyle Lowry combine to score 40 or more points in game, the Raptors usually win. It’s one of the few givens in life like death and taxes.

However, the duo has struggled this postseason. Lowry has been in the worst shooting slump of his career and DeRozan has as well, but in Game Five against the Heat, DeRozan was 11-22 from the field and a perfect 11-11 from the foul line for his playoff best game of 34 points. Lowry attempted 25 shots from the field, made nine, but was 4-9 from behind the three point line and chipped in with a solid 25 points. Added together, they combined for 59 of the Raptors 99 points on the night.

Lowry had his best game of the playoffs in this series back on Saturday in Game Three with a 33 point performance, but he and DeRozan have not been completely in sync in the same playoff game for the whole postseason. That is something the Raptors and their fans have been waiting for.

“We can disparage them all we want and talk about how bad their shooting is, but you don’t forget how to score the basketball,” Raptors head coach Dwane Casey said after the game. “It’s going to come back. When? You hope it’s within this series, but it’s going to come back. We have faith in those guys. They carried us the entire season and not one-time did we doubt their ability to score the basketball.

“And now they have to ramp it up again for the next game.”

DeRozan has taken a beating in the press and on social media over his lack of performance in the playoffs. He can opt out of his contract at the end of the season and go for a max deal in the neighborhood of $20-25-million per season. One Toronto sports writer actually said on Wednesday that if the Raptors did sign DeRozan to a max deal that person should be fired.

DeRozan’s performance in Game Five was a gigantic “stick it” to his detractors.

The fact is he played the game hurt, the thumb on his shooting hand is hurting and hurting bad. He played through the pain. Many stars have sat out with less pain and just shut it down.

In the fourth quarter DeRozan re-injured his thumb and made a bee line to the locker room. He was followed by the Raptors Director of Sports Science Alex McKechnie. The cagey Scotsman did his best MacGyver imitation by using a shoelace on DeRozan’s thumb and he came back and finished the game.

“Thousand dollar shoelaces” is what DeRozan called the device.

When asked, what does the thumb hurt like? DeRozan said, “it hurt likes a blow torch.”
That’s pretty graphic.

Plain and simple the Raptors don’t win without DeRozan sucking it up and playing. He played like the legendary war horses of the old days in the NBA.

That’s why the Raptors head to Miami up three games to two instead of being down three games to two.

They need DeRozan and Lowry to keep up doing what they did Wednesday night if they want to advance to the Toronto Raptors first ever Conference Final.

 

 

DeMar DeRozan & Frank McLeanVeteran journalist Frank McLean has covered nearly every Raptors game in Toronto since their inaugural season at the Skydome back in 1995-96. He has seen it all. The good, the bad and the really bad and he is one of the very few journalists in Toronto that has kept coming back for more.

 

 

 


NBA Toronto Raptors DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry

Raptors And Heat Look to Win Ugly In Game Five

By Frank McLean

After watching Game Four of this Miami Heat-Toronto Raptors conference semi-final, you might scratch your head and ask, was that really professional basketball I just watched? That game was ugly from both team’s perspective.

Missing their big men in the middle , Jonas Valanciunas for Toronto and Hassan Whiteside for Miami, both teams had to improvise so to speak.

What hurts from a Raptors standpoint is that they had an opportunity to win this game and they let it slip away.

The problem was they couldn’t stop Dwyane Wade who scored 30 points in the win and willed the Heat to the win, that’s what the great players in the game do.

Raptors head coach Dwane Casey sat down with the media yesterday when the team returned from Miami after opting to spend the night in South Florida instead of flying home after the game.

“Everyone’s upset we lost, which they should be, but nobody’s pushing the panic button because it’s such a competitive series,” Casey said.

It has been a competitive series for sure, even though the basketball has not been pretty.

“They’re not shooting the ball well, it’s written history,” Casey added. “We know about it, Miami knows it. We’re trying to do things to get around it. We’re trying to create more offence with those guys struggling the way they are, but again, they’re going to be our guys because at some point they’re going to get their rhythm, their shot. Someone else is going to step up and they may be more of a decoy or whatever, but’s not like we’re going to bench Kyle and DeMar and go away from them. They’re our guys. We believe in them. They’re our two all-stars and sooner or later they’re going to come through or be a part of what we’re trying to do.”

The struggles again go back to the lack of scoring from Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. The duo were a combined 6-28 from the field for 19 points. Lowry fouled out and that did not help. DeRozan was 4-17 and has a thumb injury that is hindering his shooting.

“I thought that was our biggest nemesis, containing the basketball,” Casey continued. “Dwyane Wade was just putting his head down and attacking our paint. I don’t care if you have Wilt Chamberlain or Bill Russell back there. One dribble to the rim, there’s not many big guys that are going to (get over to help).

“Our defence hasn’t been atrocious, but it could be better,” Casey said. “It could help our offence more by getting stops, getting out on the break a little more.”

The Raptors have been decent on defense. The Heat averaged 108 points a game against Charlotte and the Raptors have held them to under a 100 in this series.

Toronto can still win this series.

They must attack Wade and make life difficult for him.

Lowry can’t foul out of the game early like he did in Game Four. He needs another big scoring game like Game Three.

If DeMar DeRozan’s thumb is hurting, he needs to become a Jose Calderon and be a ball distributor and set his teammates up for the perfect shot.

Let’s see what happens, it might not be pretty, but ugly wins count the same as the pretty one’s.

 

 

DeMar DeRozan & Frank McLeanVeteran journalist Frank McLean has covered nearly every Raptors game in Toronto since their inaugural season at the Skydome back in 1995-96. He has seen it all. The good, the bad and the really bad and he is one of the very few journalists in Toronto that has kept coming back for more.

 

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors Jonas Valanciunas, Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan

Toronto Raptors Are 3:1 Favorites To Beat The Heat

There has been a lot of noise coming from south of the Canadian border about how much certain sports organizations expect or would like to see a Cavaliers versus Heat Eastern Conference Final, but after the Raptors took back home court advantage in Miami on Saturday night, the odds have swung heavily in favor of a Toronto-Cleveland series.

Like it or hate it, ESPN’s Basketball Power index is at the very least objective and it puts the Raptors as 3:1 favorites to advance.

Raptors playoff odds as of May 8 2016 per ESPN

The ESPN Basket Power Index is meant to predict a team’s future performance using the recent past and known future. It doesn’t account for things like Heat center Hassan Whiteside twisting a knee a possibly missing the rest of the postseason or Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas turning an ankle and not being available either.

“Right now we don’t know about Hassan who is a big part of what we do, but that doesn’t mean anything, we still have a series to play and Toronto, they don’t care, no one cares,” Dwyane Wade said after Game Three.

Wade is right. No one cares if a team is hindered by injuries to key players in the playoffs. You figure it out or your season ends and this series is about to look a whole lot more like the second half of Game Three than it did in the 2.5 contests prior to that.

“Whiteside’s out, JV is out, it was a guard game today so the floor opened up a lot more,” Kyle Lowry said after Game Three. “I felt like (my) shot was there last game to be honest and I felt in was just a matter of time and me shooting the shots for them to go down.”

It shouldn’t surprise anyone the Wade and Lowry both went off in the second half of Game Three. With the starting centers out of the game, there was no rim protection and it became a free-for-all driving to the hoop which caused defenders to sag off and the three-point line to open up. Neither team could stop the other’s star guard, they could only barely slow them down.

Don’t look to an analytical predictor to help you figure which team is going to be favored now. Your only clues are going to come from how these teams performed in the regular season and how both teams won without their centers.

The Heat went 6-3 without Whiteside this season and the Raptors were 16-6 without Valanciunas. In Miami, Chris Bosh was there to step up in 8 of the games Whiteside missed, averaging 21 points and 7.8 rebounds, a small but significant bump over his season averages. In Toronto, Bismack Biyombo started the 22 games Valanciunas wasn’t available and averaged 7.2 points , 12.2 rebounds and 2 blocks, almost doubling his boards and getting about 50 percent more points and blocks in about 50 percent more minutes.

Unfortunately for Miami, Bosh is unavailable and they really don’t have anyone that can replace Whiteside’s defense and rebounding. For Toronto, Biyombo has been M.I.A. so far in the second round and they will be hoping he steps up once again in Valanciunas’ absence to give them the rim protection the Heat no longer have.

As Lowry noted about Game Three, it’ll be a guards’ game from now on. Wade and Dragic versus Lowry and DeRozan. The Heat guard duo averaging 27.5 points per game during the regular season and 36.9 points per game during this year’s playoffs. The Raptors guard duo averaging 44.7 points per game during the regular season, but only 34.1 points per game in the postseason.

Fortunately for Toronto, both of their guards appear to have reacquired their scoring touch, DeRozan averaging 22.8 points over his last four games and Lowry’s break out 33 point performance in Game Three.

Game Four will end up as DeRozan predicted, the team that wants it the most will get it, but this time at least the Raptors will be ready. It doesn’t matter who is hurt, there are no excuses in the playoffs.

“(The Heat will be) going out there and lay(ing) everything they have out there on the line and we got to go out there with that same intensity because they sure don’t want to go down 3-1,” DeRozan said.

Taking everything into consideration, the ESPN Basketball Power index odds look about right and that makes Game Four little more than a coin flip.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 


NBA Toronto Raptors Kyle Lowry

Some Lowry Daggers Puts The Raptors In Charge Of The Series

The Toronto Raptors took back home court advantage in their second round playoff series with the Miami Heat on Saturday with a 95-91 win at American Airlines Arena in Game Three as a succession of Kyle Lowry daggers overshadowed a huge night by Dwyane Wade.

Miami Heat Dwyane Wade

“Kyle Lowry hit some big shots,” Dwyane Wade said. “DeMar DeRozan hit some big shots as well, but Kyle hit some daggers.”

The game started out taking a page from the script in Toronto as the Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas was too much for the Heat big man Hassan Whiteside to stop and things were about to get worse when Whiteside twisted a knee and had to leave the game in the second quarter. With no one to even slow him down, Valanciunas had a 16 point 10 rebound double-double at the half.

The Heat’s defense has been built around Whiteside and without him manning the middle, this series could be over pretty quickly.

“Right now we don’t know about Hassan who is a big part of what we do, but that doesn’t mean anything, we still have a series to play and Toronto, they don’t care, no one cares,” Wade said. “So, we have to figure out a way in Game Four to put a game plan together that is going to help us win the game.”

Whiteside didn’t return to the game and left the building wearing a full cast on his injured leg. Reasonable speculation suggesting he’s done for the season. The only hope for the Heat comes from Valanciunas leaving the game in the third quarter after turning an ankle. The Raptors center is day-to-day, but Miami might not have to face him in Game Four.

Unfortunately for Miami, in a guard dominated game it’s the East’s highest scoring duo of Lowry and DeRozan versus Goran Dragic and Wade with the Raptors fourth year guards Cory Joseph and Terrence Ross up against the rookies Josh Richardson and Justice Winslow or possibly (like in Game Three) Gerald Green. In the guard dominated fourth quarter of Game Three, it was the Raptors guards coming out on top.

“Whiteside’s out, JV is out, it was a guard game today so the floor opened up a lot more,” Lowry said. “I felt like (my) shot was there last game to be honest and I felt in was just a matter of time and me shooting the shots for them to go down.”

Without big men dominating in the paint for the first time in the Raptors playoffs, Lowry was back to being his old self and that’s bad news for Miami. This series was close with Lowry shooting 30 percent from the field and looking frustrated on drives to the rim, with him hitting shots like in the regular season, it won’t be close any longer.

“I have never lost faith in (Lowry),” Raptors head coach Dwane Casey said for the umpteenth time during this year’s playoffs. “I’ve said this, he’s struggled, but you don’t forget how to shoot and we needed that. We needed him to be Kyle and he was Kyle tonight.”

Lowry finished with 33 points on 11-19 shooting from the field and he made five three-pointers with that smooth easy stroke the Raptors have come to rely on. The shooting slump is over. Lowry is back.

Toronto was in this exact same position in the first round against the Pacers after winning Game Three in Indiana to go up 2-1 in that series. However, the Pacers weren’t about to let Toronto embarrass them in Game Four and the playoff inexperienced Raptors weren’t ready. This time they know what to expect.

“Understanding that that team is coming out extremely hard,” DeRozan said. “They going out there and lay everything they have out there on the line and we got to go out there with that same intensity because they sure don’t want to go down 3-1.”

Toronto took back home court advantage convincingly in Game Three and the Heat are in trouble if Whiteside can’t return to action as expected. However, Wade showed he can still influence the outcome of a game almost by himself with that 38 point performance in Game Three, but that’s almost, someone else will need to step up big time in Game Four to stop the Raptors from going up 3-1 heading back to Toronto.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 


NBA Toronto Raptors Kyle Lowry

Why Can’t The Raptors Kyle Lowry Shoot Anymore?

By Frank McLean

We have now played one game in this best of seven second round playoff series between the Toronto Raptors and Miami Heat, and counting the seven games played with the Indiana Pacers the question is still being asked.

Why can’t Kyle Lowry shoot a basketball?

Well he did at the end of regulation time when he jacked up one of those mid court what heck it probably won’t go in the basket shots, which oh my god it did go in the basket to tie the game at 90-all and force overtime.

It was the only three point shot he made the whole game on seven attempts.

His numbers in the game were this 3-13 from the field, zero attempts from the free throw line and seven points.

His partner in the back court has had his problems in the Indiana series, but that had more to do with the Pacers defense.

DeMar Derozan had a 22 point night in Game One against the Heat, but these guys when they combine for 40 points or more, the Raptors usually put another in check in the win column. That was their MO during the regular season. So, if Lowry does not get it going, the Raptors do no not advance.

After the game Lowry made his way to the third floor of the Air Canada Centre where the old practice court is located and just started shooting baskets. About 45-minutes later he came back to the locker room and was humble in talking about his struggles.

“It sucks that I’m playing this bad when all eyes are on me because I know I’m way better than this,” Lowry had said after the game. “So I’ve got to pick this s— up.

“I passed up a lot of shots tonight. I passed up a lot, a ton of shots actually. I think that’s what (this shooting skid) did to me a little bit. It’s crazy, yeah. I shoot the ball well when I’m by myself. It’s a big difference when you’re by yourself than when you’ve got 10 guys out there.”

It’s good news that Lowry can still shoot in practice, it means there’s a chance he’ll come around during this series and sooner rather than later. His head coach Dwane Casey is 100 percent behind Lowry and points out Lowry gives the Raptors a lot more than just shooting.

“The thing about it is his grit,” Casey said after the game. “He was a plus seven. Even though he didn’t shoot the ball, I thought in stretches down the stretch he got stuff done. I thought his bulldog tenacity set the tone for us defensively.”

“Again, we know he is not shooting the ball well, he’s not making the shot he normally makes,” Casey added. “He is just like a hitter, hitters can go through slumps and he’s there. But again, we have to believe in him, he’s going to come out of it. He gives us so much more than he does just shooting the basketball.”

Over in the Miami Heat locker room they are aware of Lowry’s past performance as they say at the race track.

“Kyle Lowry can get it going,” said Heat guard Dwane Wade, a veteran who has had a slump or two in his time. “We have to always be aware of him. He’s an All-Star player in this league. We watched their first series, look when those guys are down they come back fighting.”

The Heat still fear Lowry, they just hope his mojo comes back in training camp in October not in the rest of this series.

We still do not have the answer to the 64-thousand dollar question, what is wrong with Kyle Lowry?

Is he hurt? Back in late March his shooting elbow was injured and had it drained. The elbow was first injured in their game with the Orlando Magic in London, England in January.

Lowry will tell you it’s the mechanics of his shot and nothing else. So you have to believe him.

Slumps happen. Casey is right, it’s like a baseball hitter who can’t hit the baseball. If Lowry is looking for company he can walk out the ACC and head down the street to the Rogers Center where there are a couple of Blue Jays going through a slump named Russell Martin and Troy Tulowitzki hitting well below .200. Except for those two it’s five months before they reach their postseason.

One thing for sure, the Raptors need Kyle Lowry to get it going. A 30 or 40 point game would be great, but a 20-pointer to go with a 20-pointer from DeRozan would help the cause advance to the conference final. Fortunately for Toronto, if his practice shot really is falling, this is a problem that should fix itself.

 

 

DeMar DeRozan & Frank McLeanVeteran journalist Frank McLean has covered nearly every Raptors game in Toronto since their inaugural season at the Skydome back in 1995-96. He has seen it all. The good, the bad and the really bad and he is one of the very few journalists in Toronto that has kept coming back for more.

 

 

 


NBA Toronto Raptors Kyle Lowry

Raptors Aren’t Worried About Kyle Lowry’s Shooting

A lot is being made about the Raptors All-Stars poor shooting in their first round playoff series with the Pacers and with a 3-2 series lead, it could be argued the impact has been overstated. Especially when it comes to Toronto’s starting point guard Kyle Lowry. The Raptors aren’t worried about how Lowry has played.

Lowry’s scoring is down from the regular season by 6 points a game to 15.2 points per game in the playoffs as his usually reliable three-point shooting has dipped from 38.8 percent to just 18.8 percent. However, he is still having a significant positive impact while he’s on the court. His plus/minus postseason average is +4 points because he does so much more for Toronto than just score.

“It helps us when he’s rolling, but he does so many other positive things for our team to help us win,” head coach Dwane Casey explained after practice on Thursday. “As long as he is doing those, it’s going to be a huge plus for us. Diving on the floor for loose balls, taking charges, making sure he’s finding the open man and moving the basketball. All those things are positive.”

Coach Casey isn’t blowing smoke. Lowry is fourth among all players in the postseason at drawing charges (0.6 per game) and deflections (3.4 per game). He is 13th in recovering loose balls (1.0 per game) and he contests 4.8 shots per game.

With Lowry’s help, Toronto is the second best team in the playoffs at recovering loose balls (6.6) and the third best at drawing charges (1.0).

This first round match will be won or lost on intensity and physical play. These haven’t been pretty games with easy open looks and uncontested plays at the rim. Just about everything has been hard for the Raptors in this series.

“Fight for our lives,” Lowry kept repeating. “We have to go in there and play and be the more assertive team. Go out there and be physical and fight for it. Fight for every inch on the floor.”

If Lowry and the rest of the Raptors fight for every inch on the floor, they should be able to finally win this franchise’s first seven game series ever and advance to the second round.

Plus, there is one stat Toronto may hang their hat on as they head to Indiana with a chance to close out this series on the road. Lowry has shot better at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

In the two road games Lowry has averaged 16.5 points on 36.4 percent shooting from the field and 26.7 percent from three. Those numbers may not be impressive, but Lowry has shot better than twice as good from three-point range on road where he’s actually made four three-pointers. Casey has faith Lowry can do better.

“I am not worried about Kyle’s shot,” Casey said. “He’s not going to forget how to shoot the ball.

“We know he’s a great three-point shooter. I know at some point it’s going to come around.”

The Raptors backup defensive oriented center isn’t worried in any case.
 
“It ain’t about shooting man,” Bismack Biyombo told Pro Bball Report. “They can talk about shooting, but this series is not about shooting. It’s about being physical and if we can be physical, we can win.”

He’s right of course. It’s on the Raptors to be the more physical team.

“Don’t let it get back home,” Lowry said. “We got to take advantage of the opportunity.”

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 


NBA Toronto Raptors Kyle Lowry

Does A Kyle Lowry Injury Equal Panic For Raptors Fans?

Last year it was a sore back that impacted Toronto Raptors All-Star Kyle Lowry’s ability to make shots and led to an early exit in the playoffs. This year will it be a sore elbow? If Raptors fans feel a little panic starting to set in, there’s some justification. Just like last season at this time, we really don’t know how serious this is.

Lowry’s shot is off. Over his last five games, the Raptors starting point guard is shooting 26.2 percent from the field and 20 percent from three-point range. The impact shouldn’t surprise anyone. The red hot Raptors have cooled off and lost three of their past five games.

If Lowry can’t play like his usual self, Toronto becomes very mediocre very quickly no matter what head coach Dwane Casey tries to sell the media.

“(Lowry’s shooting) of some concern and there is reasons for that, but everybody at this time of year is going thru something, so there is other things (Lowry) has to do (like) get to the rim, kick it out, and do those things,” Casey tried to sell the media postgame. “He’ll be okay.

“No, I am not going to mention (the injury), but there are reasons for it, reasons why his shooting is the way it is.”

Lowry wasn’t so coy in his postgame comments. He’s had a procedure done and it hurts.

 

“We just drained it,” Lowry explained. “We thought it would calm down over the next few days. We wanted to do it when we got home (with) a couple of days between games and I got it done, just drained it.”

It sounds minor, but it’s definitely limiting and painful. Lowry’s shot hasn’t been falling lately for good reason.

“It’s definitely something that I don’t want to play with and I don’t like playing with,” Lowry said. “It is what it is and at this this time of year (you) just play thru it.”

Now that sounds a lot like what happened last year.

From a pro athlete standpoint, Lowry is a warrior when it comes to playing with pain, but that doesn’t mean he can play at the same level or with the same effectiveness on the court.

“It just gets you where you can’t extend your arm the complete way,” Lowry explained.

It sounds like this has been a lingering injury that hasn’t responded to rest and needed a procedure before it evolved into something even more serious. That isn’t the kind of news anyone in Toronto wants to hear just as the calendar is about to move into April.

“Hopefully we got it taken care of and I won’t be playing and shooting as bad  as I’ve been playing the past three games,” Lowry said. “Tonight we took care of it … get some treatment … hopefully it goes down and I can get back to my normal self.”

Everyone in Toronto hopes it’s taken care of. We have plenty of evidence the Raptors are not a serious playoff threat without their best player playing at his best. Panic? Well maybe not quite yet, but that twinge in the middle of your gut is real.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors Kyle Lowry

Raptors Have Looked Very Ordinary Without Kyle Lowry

For the second time this season the Toronto Raptors were without their All-Star point guard Kyle Lowry and for the second time they lost. Just like last season, this team looks very ordinary without him.

There is no reason to dismiss the efforts of the Celtics in their 91-79 home victory over the Lowry-less Raptors or the earlier Pistons 114-101 home win. Both of these teams are currently in a playoff spot and sweeping a season series against any team in your own conference is never easy or just expected. However, the Raptors are a lot better than at any time in their franchise history and have a legitimate shot at first place in the East. The drop off after Cleveland and Toronto is pretty significant.

The drop off in the Raptors capabilities without Lowry in the lineup may be just as significant for Toronto.

“We had trouble scoring,” head coach Dwane Casey said after the loss in Boston.

“It’s day and night,” DeMar DeRozan said. “I think every team when they have key players out (there’s) going to be some type of difference.”

The Raptors are built around the two-headed monster of Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, the fifth (21.9 points) and second (23.7 points) highest scorers in their conference respectively and the highest scoring duo (45.6 points) in the East. The Cavaliers LeBron James (1st) and Kyrie Irving (11th) have 44.5 points combined.

However, in Toronto, it’s Lowry who stirs the drink for the Raptors and has been his team’s highest scorer since the NBA All-Star Weekend ended at 25.1 points per game. He’s also been the leading scorer in the Eastern Conference since the break. DeRozan almost keeping pace at 24.6 points and the ever consistent James (24.7) in-between them.

Lowry provides more than just points for the Raptors, however. He’s earned the “Bulldog” nickname he hates with his aggressive play and ability to make it “Lowry-time” in the second half of games.

As much as the Raptors rely on DeRozan’s ability to get to the free throw line – and DeRozan is among the very best in the Association at this – Lowry is actually a little better than his backcourt mate at drawing fouls. Sixth in the NBA and first in the East at 5.8 fouls drawn per game, Lowry drives other teams crazy with his aggressive play.

While DeRozan is right behind him with 5.7 fouls drawn, Lowry creates the offensive fouls that get his team the extra possessions needed to win games.

It’s the defensive ability Lowry brings to the table that helps Toronto get extra points. He is ninth in the NBA in scoring points off of turnovers (3.9) and it’s the creation of those easy points that often takes the heart out of the opponent in the second half of games. Being the NBA steals leader (2.2 per game tied with Chris Paul), helps.

It’s not totally fair to use the results of just two games to illustrate the difference in the Raptors play with and without Lowry, but what happened in Boston and Detroit was predictable.

On average this season the Raptors benefit from 13.6 opponent turnovers and 22.3 opponent fouls. In Boston, their opponent had 8 turnovers and 18 fouls. In Detroit, the Pistons had 10 turnovers and 20 fouls. Those were pretty good numbers compared to their season averages (Boston 13.8/22.1, Detroit 13.6/19.3).

As Casey likes to say, when a starter sits, it’s good experience for the next man up. But while veteran Jason Thompson can be expected to do a good job covering for Patrick Patterson and veteran James Johnson (with help) can do a solid job of covering for DeMarre Carroll, it isn’t quite the same with Lowry.

Lowry is this team’s leader and the guy stepping up into the rotation when he’s absent has been rookie Delon Wright. 24-year-old backup Cory Joseph gets the start, but Wright has to play and neither player can truly replace what an All-Star brings to a game – at least not yet and it’s going to show. You can’t hide the impact of your point guard when the offense is expected to run through him.

Last year Lowry faded after a strong first half and what could be best described as a sore back (or just wear and tear) that never allowed him to get going and the result was disastrous in the postseason. This year Lowry looks stronger in the second half and Casey is making sure things stay that way. A fresh and healthy starting point guard after the second week of April is going to trump winning games in March because Casey knows just how ordinary his team can look without Lowry at 100 percent.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 
 
 


NBA Toronto Raptors Kyle Lowry

Raptors Kyle Lowry Named EC Player Of The Week

The NBA announced Monday that guard Kyle Lowry has been named Eastern Conference Player of the Week for games played March 14-20. Lowry, a two-time All-Star, earns the honor for the fourth time as a member of the Raptors and the fifth time in his career. He becomes the first player since Chris Bosh in 2009-10 to win the award multiple times in the same season after being named player of the week for games February 22-28.

Lowry ranked fourth in East scoring last week averaging 27.2 points and led the NBA in fourth quarter scoring at 10.8 points. He also posted 6.8 assists, 6.4 rebounds, 2.2 steals and shot .471 (16-for-34) from three-point range while helping Toronto post a 4-1 record.

Lowry recorded double-doubles on consecutive nights March 14 vs. Chicago (33 points, 11 rebounds) and March 15 at Milwaukee (25 points, 11 assists) to start the week. He followed up by scoring eight of the team’s 16 points in overtime March 17 at Indiana and then 13 of his game-high 32 points in the fourth quarter March 18 versus Boston.

With victories against Indiana and Boston the Raptors improved to 12-4 versus the top-7 teams in the Eastern Conference, 11-1 against Atlantic Division opponents and 3-1 in overtime games. Toronto also holds the second-best road record in the conference with a 20-13 mark.

Lowry currently leads the NBA averaging 2.16 steals per game and helped Toronto’s defense rank fourth in the NBA last week holding opponents to 96.6 points. He is tied for the most games in the NBA with three or more steals, including three games last week.

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry

Two Words To Describe The Raptors: Guard Driven

By Frank McLean

Watching the Toronto Raptors this season there has been one consistent about the team and that has been the play of their guards Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan.

Wednesday night the dynamic duo combined for 63 points in their 104-94 win over the Utah Jazz in the curtain raiser of their seven game homestand. Their best combined effort of the season.

Like your all-time favorite superhero’s you watched as a kid growing up on television, Lowry and DeRozan keep bailing the Raptors out of trouble on a nightly basis.

Head coach Dwane Casey always brings up the fact that this team isn’t perfect and will always talk about his team’s penchant for starting games poorly or starting the game ok and all of a sudden going into periods where they can’t seem to defend or for four or five minutes and can’t seem to make a shot.

It’s usually Lowry or DeRozan who will grab the bull by the horns and get the Raptors back into the game.

There was no better example than what Lowry pulled off against the Cleveland Cavaliers last Friday night when he scored a career high 43 points in a comeback win and hit the game winning shot which he said was the first one he ever made in his NBA career.

It was such a performance he had to go back to his planet to rest and was kept out of Sunday’s game in Motown against the Pistons.

They have been doing this so quietly all season you just expect them to keep coming to save the day like Mighty Mouse, and I don’t mean Damon Stoudamire.

Veteran Luis Scola, who in his first year with the Raptors, has been able to watch these two guys up close and personal.

“They are talented obviously,” Scola said on Thursday. “You have to be talented. They have the fire power, they are young, they are right at the moment in their career where their bodies are at their peak and the mind is starting to come together to be very mature. They combine those things to peak and be at a very mature stage of their game.”

Scola makes an emphasis that DeRozan is the reason for 90 per cent of the open threes he takes and knows it’s in the team’s best interest to have the offense run through Kyle and DeMar.

“They open stuff for all of us on the court, but I think they open it more for each other,” Scola said. “DeMar opens things up for Kyle and Kyle opens things up for DeMar. That allows them to be consistent the whole game and that is what we want. That’s what this team needs. We need them to shoot as many shots as possible.”

Forward Patrick Patterson usually gets a chance to play with one of the two during the game and says they just seem to know how to find each other.

“They seem to find each other in moments where you feel like they wouldn’t,” Patterson said.“Whether it’s Kyle penetrating to the basket and somehow finding DeMar or vice versa, they seem to have some type of sixth sense for each other out there on the court. They have a great feel and I think that is all credit to their relationship off the court, so when they’re on the court we all know what they are capable of individually, but what they do together as a tandem it’s crazy. They’re not too many like that tandem.”

This makes Friday night’s visit by the Portland Trail Blazers more intriguing because the Trail Blazers offense like the Raptors runs through the guards Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum.

Dwane Casey on Thursday said he doesn’t think the offense from either pair will decide the outcome of Friday night’s matchup.

“The duo that gets defense in the game first is the team that will win,” Casey predicted.

None-the-less, if you like guard play, Friday night’s game is just for you.

But when you look at any playoff success for the Raptors, it’s going to rest on the shoulders of Lowry and DeRozan.

 

 

DeMar DeRozan & Frank McLeanVeteran journalist Frank McLean has covered nearly every Raptors game in Toronto since their inaugural season at the Skydome back in 1995-96. He has seen it all. The good, the bad and the really bad and he is one of the very few journalists in Toronto that has kept coming back for more.

 

 

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors Kyle Lowry

Raptors Kyle Lowry Is Player Of The Week In The East

The NBA announced Monday that the Raptors two-time All-Star guard Kyle Lowry has been named Eastern Conference Player of the Week for games played February 22-28. Lowry earns the honor for the third time as a member of the Raptors and the fourth time in his career. He previously won the award for games played December 1-7, 2014, January 27-February 2, 2014 and March 12-19, 2011.

Lowry led the conference in scoring last week averaging 28.7 points, while shooting 28-for-47 (.596) from the field and 7-for-17 (.412) from three-point range. He also ranked second in the conference averaging 8.7 assists in three games for the Raptors.

Lowry began the week with his eighth career triple-double February 22 in New York, leading the team with 22 points, 11 assists and 11 rebounds in a 122-95 victory over the Knicks. He followed up with 21 points and a team-high six assists during a 114-105 win February 24 versus Minnesota.

Lowry then scored a career-high 43 points February 26, including the game-winning basket with 3.9 seconds remaining, to help Toronto defeat Cleveland 99-97 at Air Canada Centre. It was the first time Lowry had made a game-winning basket during his 10-year NBA career and helped Toronto win the season series 2-1 against the Cavaliers.

 

NBA Toronto Raptors Kyle Lowry

Was Friday The Raptors Best Regular Season Game Ever?

By Frank McLean

Whoever you talked to prior to Friday night’s Cleveland Cavaliers – Toronto Raptors match, it was either a big game or just another tilt in late February as the dog days to the playoffs keep progressing.

Turns out it was special as the Raptors fought back on a night that defined Kyle Lowry as someone you can count on when the chips are down. He hit a game winning long range two point shot to give the Raptors a 99-97 win.

Lowry said it was the first time in his NBA career that he has hit a game winning shot. It became Kyle Lowry night at the Air Canada Centre even if the tickets to the game didn’t say it was.

With his adopted brother DeMar DeRozan suffering from flu like symptoms and Cory Joseph feeling the same way, Lowry did what his opponent LeBron James has to do on a nightly basis with the Cavs and that’s carry the team on his back to a win.

Here’s his numbers. A career high 43 points going 15-for-20 from the field, 43 minutes played, 5 rebounds and 9 assists.

Coming in the Cavs led the second place Raptors by three games in the Eastern Conference. A win would have pushed it to four games, but the loss cut it to two. If this was hockey, this is what they would call a classic four-pointer.

The Cavaliers wanted this one bad.

In his pre-game comments Cavs new head coach Tyronn Lue made a point of being up by four games with the win as this was the last head-to-head meeting left on the regular season schedule between the two clubs.

Like Lowry, Lebron James tried to win this game all by himself. When he was on the floor the Cavs were clicking. When he wasn’t the Raptors would chip away at their lead. James spent 40 minutes on the floor scoring 25, adding eight boards and seven assists. He looked exhausted from playing the entire second half.

“It’s mental mistake after mental mistake and those hurt more than anything when you can play better mentally,” a very perturbed James said after the game. “People get so caught up in the physical side of the game, we lack the mental right now and we’ve got to continue to get better with it.”

James had a chance to force overtime or win it outright with the last shot of the game and he had a good look, but that was not the reason Cleveland lost the game.

In their next game on Sunday afternoon against the Wizards in Washington, James did not dress in what the team called ‘getting a rest.’ Fatigue has been a problem for the Cavaliers all season, although playing without James for any length of time might be an even bigger problem.

Meanwhile over in the Raptors locker room they were down playing the importance of this contest both before and after the game.

In his pregame comments Raptors head coach Dwayne Casey kept saying that it was just the next game on the regular season schedule and not a game to see if the bar had been raised for his team.

Casey is always talking about the process and it drives a lot of us nuts in media, but it’s true. After the game Casey made a point that Friday’s win means nothing if the Raptors go to Detroit Sunday night and play a stinker and that then media would be writing about how bad the Raptors are.

When you look at what Toronto had to overcome to win this one you have to wonder how they did it?

  1. DeRozan and Joseph were ill.
  2. Jonas Valanciunas was pretty much a non-factor in the third quarter after taking an elbow in the middle body and had to have ribs and diaphragm x-rayed.
  3. The all too common NBA bad officiating. The trio of James Capers, David Guthrie and Ben Taylor did not have a stellar night.

Casey said you have to hand it to his team for winning the game “despite the obstacles.”

However, you couldn’t have asked for a better ending. Lowry scoring scoring the last six points for Toronto. He tied the game at 97 with a drive into the paint to tie his own career high in points at 41 and then hit the game-winning long range jumper with 3.8 seconds left to set a new personal best of 43 points. James firing the three-point air ball with time expiring as the Cavs failed to score a point in the final minute.

So when you look back at Friday night this was the best regular season win in Raptors history. It has set up a potential rivalry with the Cavs that on paper should have these two teams meeting in the Eastern Conference Final.

In their 21 NBA seasons, the Raptors have never been this close to first place in the Eastern Conference this late in a season.

However, games are not played on paper. Upsets happen. We still don’t know how this Raptors team will do in the playoffs. Friday’s win means nothing if they can’t build on the “process” and get better as a team after the regular season ends.

Meanwhile for the Cavs the game sent up some red flags that they got to get better if they want to make it back to the finals.

Like James said, for them its mental.

 

 

DeMar DeRozan & Frank McLeanVeteran journalist Frank McLean has covered nearly every Raptors game in Toronto since their inaugural season at the Skydome back in 1995-96. He has seen it all. The good, the bad and the really bad and he is one of the very few journalists in Toronto that has kept coming back for more.

 

 

 

NBA Cleveland Cavaliers LeBron JamesCavs LeBron James Needs A Rest After Playing Toronto (again)

It’s been a recurring theme this year in Cleveland. The Cavaliers have looked tired at times, especially after playing the Raptors in Toronto. The solution appears to be giving their superstar LeBron James a day off to rest.

 

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors Kyle Lowry

Raptors Kyle Lowry All-Star Media Availability

Toronto Raptors Kyle Lowry talks about hosting All-Star Weekend, his friendship with DeMar DeRozan, Kobe, what’s different this time and how the perception of Toronto has changed during NBA All-Star media availability.

How special does it feel knowing that it’s here now and it’s the weekend?

KL: Yeah, I think the first time is always special, but now it’s fun and in my hometown where I play every night. And the way I get to represent the team, it’s great. It’s a lot of buzz around me, and my family and my friends, and especially a buzz with me and DeMar [DeRozan]. It’s a special time.

To share it with DeMar, that must be really good?

KL: Yeah, it means the world. Because we’re our leaders of our team. We put our blood, sweat and tears into the organization and what we do. It’s just been good. It’s been a good season so far.

Do you get a chance to play host a little bit because this is in Toronto?

KL: A little bit. But we’ve kind of been staying a little more low key and not trying to do everything out there. But people called me and asked me where to go or where to eat dinner. I’ve given a few tips here and there.

What are the tips?

KL: Stay out of traffic. But gave them a couple of restaurants and the restaurants that I like. I’ll make a call into it and make sure people take care of them.

It’s Kobe’s last time, does that mean something to you?

KL: It means a lot. I think it means something to everybody this year. He’s the Michael Jordan of our era. He’s the most competitive player we’ve played against, and the thing he’s done throughout his career and the things he’s done to change the game, to motivate the players is unbelievable.

Are you going to go for MVP?

KL: I’m just going to go out and have fun and enjoy the game.

You’re from Philly, Kobe’s from Philly. Growing up, was he a guy that you looked up to?

KL: Well, he’s a Laker. Of course he’s a guy that we grew up watching and respect because of where he’s from. He’s from Philly, and I’m from Philly, and the things he’s done to put the city on the map is magical.

How is this year different for you?

KL: It’s home. It’s my home city and where I play every single night. Like I said, I can play host, unofficial host. But it’s just one thing to be able to represent the team, the country, the city, like I do every single night I step on that floor.

How much do you think the perception of Toronto has changed since the time that you’ve
been in the league?

KL: I think it’s changed a lot. Toronto is kind of one of those teams that you think, Oh, they’re Toronto. But now we’ve become a force. We’re 48, 49 wins [in the last two seasons]. Unfortunately, the playoffs haven’t turned into what we wanted to do. But every year we’re getting better. The organization is getting better, the team is getting better, players are growing. Me staying, hopefully that changes people’s perception about people leaving and coming and having a couple years and leaving. Me staying was the reason for me to try to change the perception.

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry

Raptors Win Player And Coach Of The Month Honors In January

In a clean sweep of the Eastern Conference monthly awards, Toronto Raptors head coach Dwane Casey and guards Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan have been honored for their accomplishments in the month of January.

The National Basketball Association announced Tuesday that Toronto Raptors guards DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry have been selected as co-winners for Eastern Conference Player of the Month. During 14 games in January, the duo combined to average 45.6 points, 24.0 rebounds and 10.9 assists, while leading the Raptors in scoring during a stretch of 10 consecutive games in a franchise-record 11-game win streak. DeRozan and Lowry become the first players in team history to earn the honour twice, after being selected for April 2015 and December 2014, respectively.

DeRozan ranked second among Eastern Conference players in January, averaging 23.9 points and recording eight games with 20+ points. He shot .442 (118-for-267) from the field, .417 (15-for-36) from three-point range and .848 (84-for-99) at the free throw line. DeRozan scored a season-high 35 points January 8 at Washington and matched a career-high with 11 rebounds January 14 during an NBA Global Game in London, England versus Orlando. He also matched a career high with three consecutive 30-point games January 18-22, averaging 32.3 points during this stretch.

Lowry finished seventh in East scoring last month averaging 21.7 points and was the only player in the conference to record 300+ points, 90+ assists and 30+ steals. Lowry matched a season high by making seven three-pointers January 18 versus Brooklyn and ranked second among East players with 39 three-pointers. He recorded five double-doubles during the month, which tied for second among East guards. Lowry recorded a season-high 11 assists January 1 versus Charlotte and matched a season high with 10 rebounds January 8 at Washington.

DeRozan and Lowry were selected to participate in the 65th NBA All-Star Game being played at Air Canada on Sunday, February 14. The last time a back-court duo from the host city was selected to participate in the All-Star Game was in 1972 when Jerry West and Gail Goodrich represented the Los Angeles Lakers at The Forum.

NBA Toronto Raptors head coach Dwane Casey

On Monday the National Basketball Association announced that Toronto Raptors head coach Dwane Casey had been named NBA Eastern Conference Coach of the Month for January. Casey is the only coach in franchise history to earn the honor multiple times – November 2014 and December 2013.

Toronto finished January with a 12-2 (.857) record, which included a franchise-best 11 consecutive wins to finish the month (Jan. 6-30). The Raptors ranked third in East scoring averaging 105.6 points, while holding opponents to 97.4 points (third-best in the NBA). During the 11-game winning streak the Raptors defeated five opponents with winning records and won by an average margin of +11.7 points.

The Raptors began the month making a season-high 15 three-pointers during a 104-94 victory Jan. 1 vs. Charlotte. The team then matched a season-high with four consecutive road wins Jan. 6-14, which included an NBA Global Game in London, England against Orlando. After returning from London, the Raptors swept a seven-game home stand (Jan. 18-30) for the first time in team history.

Casey joined the Raptors as head coach June 21, 2011 and led the team to a franchise-record 49 wins last season. He holds the franchise record for coaching victories with 186 wins and has a .518 (186-173) winning percentage in five seasons with Toronto. Doc Rivers of the Los Angeles Clippers was named Western Conference Coach of the Month.

 

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry

Raptors To Live Or Die With DeMar DeRozan And Kyle Lowry

The Toronto Raptors returned to action after a one game in a week “vacation” in London to play the Brooklyn Nets in game 41 of the 2015-16 season at the Air Canada Centre on Monday night. The Nets being who they are this season, the more interesting topic is the upcoming NBA Trade Deadline that was exactly one month away. Will the second place Eastern Conference Raptors make a move or will they live and die with their top-ranked scoring backcourt of DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry?

Captain Obvious would tell you Toronto relies on Lowry and DeRozan for scoring. DeRozan is the top scoring shooting guard in the Eastern Conference at 22.8 points per game and leads the East with 8.2 free throw attempts per game. Lowry is the second highest scoring point guard in the East at 21 points per game making the Raptors backcourt the highest scoring duo (43.8 points) in the East by a significant margin. Sometimes overlooked, Lowry is sixth in  his conference with 6.4 assists per game. DeRozan contributes a respectable 4.1 assists.

DeMarDeRozan and Kyle Lowry 2015 media day

“Kyle, DeMar we rely on them a lot for a reason because they fit in to what we do offensively, defensively, the continuity we have and for us to win, those guys, we got to have those guys playing at a high level,” head coach Dwane Casey explained.

Against the Nets, on the last day of fan All-Star voting, Lowry and DeRozan backed up their Coach’s statement by going off for a combined 61 points in the 112-100 Raptors victory. It was the first time the pair had each scored 30 or more points in the same game.

“They are pretty good,” Nets interim head coach Tony Brown said postgame. “Most likely both will be All-Stars. I don’t see why they wouldn’t.

“Lowry, he’s in better shape this year, got himself in good condition and DeRozan obviously is more poised than he probably has been in the past.

“They know the ball is going to come their way and they are making the right decisions. Whether it’s been scoring or they are moving the ball to one of their teammates.

They have a good chemistry going. These guys have been together awhile so I’m not surprised by their performance.

This is Lowry and DeRozan’s fourth season together and the stats say it’s been their best season both individually and together. The pair has obvious chemistry both on and off the court.

“They have played so much together,” Casey said. “The continuity, the offensive sets, the spacing and they understand where each other is going to be.”

“It’s easy for me because (DeRozan’s) our guy,” Lowry said. “That’s our scorer. At the end of the day, I get him the ball and he makes plays. For me it’s not about doing this or doing that, it’s about getting him in a position for him to be successful and for my other teammates to be successful. It makes my job a lot easier when you got a guy that gets you 10 assists or 30 points.”

“(It’s) extremely comfortable,” DeRozan said. “It’s second nature now. A lot of things never need to be said. I know. I feel things, something that comes from years of playing (together and) knowing each other’s game. We don’t even think about it half the time.

“It makes our team’s job easier from that standpoint of knowing when one of us is going to takeover and put a mark on the game and sometimes it’s not even scoring, it’s being aggressive and getting other guys shots.”

After Monday’s win over the Nets, Toronto sits in second place in the Eastern Conference, 1.5 games ahead of Chicago and Atlanta and 3 games back of the Cavs. Their sixth ranked offense (104.6 points per 100 possessions) is second only to Cleveland in the East as is their Net Rating of +3.7 points and they’ve accomplished this without their best defensive player DeMarre Carroll for 18 games and counting.

The elephant in the room has been Coach Casey’s reliance on playing Lowry and DeRozan big minutes to get the job done. The Raptors starting guards are just two of eight players in the NBA averaging over 36 minutes per game and those are heavy minutes. Both players like to create off the dribble and often score on isolation plays going mano a mano. This style of play took its toll on Lowry last season and it showed in the playoffs.

“Kyle and DeMar, no matter where they are or who they are, they are high usage players,” Casey explained. “That’s why our assist numbers are down. How they score. I don’t think we’ll ever be a high assist team with those guys being our go to guys because they create off the dribble pretty well. We are efficient offensively, top-five or whatever it is. It is a different way of scoring.

“Are we using them too much? That’s very difficult to answer.

“(Wearing down,) you could say that about a lot of players in the league. we try not to. We try to watch guys minutes, but every game for us is important, every possession is important.”

Casey and president and general manager Masai Ujiri really don’t have a lot of choice. Doing anything that could adversely affect the chemistry this team’s two starting guards have built up would represent a huge risk to the Raptors potential success over the rest of the season and into the playoffs.

Toronto Raptors DeMarre Carroll

Fortunately, the situation in Toronto is such that Ujiri doesn’t have to make a move in order to get a significant talent upgrade for the stretch run after the All-Star break and in the postseason. In a surprising move, the Raptors trotted out Carroll in front of the media just two weeks after Ujiri’s big free agent acquisition had undergone knee surgery to let everyone know their starting small forward was ahead of schedule.

Carroll insisted that rehab was going well. The surgery was just a minor procedure to remove loose bodies and correct an ongoing problem with inflammation. Also, the operation got him off of his feet, so now the planter fasciitis that had been bothering him is feeling a lot better as well.

Carroll doesn’t believe he’ll be out of shape on his return even though he has yet to start working out again and it seemed like he really meant it. This guy has a lot of pride.

The original timeline for Carroll’s return was 6-8 weeks which would put him back in the Raptors lineup sometime after the All-Star break. Just maybe, with the optimistic self assessment, he’ll make it back in time for the game in Chicago on February 19th?

The Toronto Raptors may or may not stand pat over the next month, but this team shouldn’t be expected to do anything that could shake up the chemistry Lowry and DeRozan have built. This team’s season will live or die on the backs of their two guards.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.