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.
Veteran 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.