Raptors Continue to Find Ways to Win in Lowry’s Absence
Coming off yet another victory and taking over the Eastern Conference third seed, the Raptors continue to find different ways to win in the star point guard’s Kyle Lowry’s absence.
A sign of a team ready for the playoffs. While Lowry has reportedly started shooting with his rehabilitating right hand, the Raptors have continued to gel and grow as they prepare for the imminent return of their second All-Star. With just five games to go in the season, the Toronto Raptors have their defence ready to combat any opposition and their offense seeing contributions from a variety of different players on a nightly basis.
Jonas Valanciunas has been playing the best stretch of basketball this season in Lowry’s absence, a big sign for a team that will need to count on the Lithuanian big man if the Raptors can make a deep playoff run. Serge Ibaka and P.J. Tucker’s arrival as well as Patrick Patterson’s return has stabilized the Toronto defence, as well as catapulting to elite status.
The depth has been there, and the pieces are starting to click.
DeMar DeRozan has been a man on a mission in his first season of a massive brand new contract, but it has been every player who has been contributing to the Raptors torrid run since the trade deadline. It starts with DeRozan and goes all the way down to Fred VanVleet and Jakob Poeltl, all guys who not only understands their roles, but excel in them.
Dwane Casey will get his fair share of heat, but his work with this new unit has been nothing short of stellar and should be commended. Very rare can trade deadline acquisitions make such a huge impact on a team in the span of only a few games and for that, Casey deserves credit. Masai Ujiri has done a great job of giving Casey the pieces he needs, and Coach Casey now is maximizing what he has to work with on the floor.
DeRozan’s scoring hasn’t even the biggest part of the Raptors offence continue to roll in Lowry’s absence. A very underrated passer, DeRozan is averaging 4.5-assists since the All-Star break, creating fluid offence and good looks for his guys whenever he is on the court. The Raptor offence is far more potent when DeRozan does more and it shows in the final score of ball games.
“It’s big time, you know?” Serge Ibaka said of DeRozan’s impact as a playmaker. “He told me earlier, one time I passed him the ball and told him to finish it and he passed it back to me and asked me ‘Why I didn’t finish it? You’re hot, keep shooting.’ When you hear something like that from the best player on your team it gives you a lot of confidence.”
The Raptors do not have a lot of players who can create their own shot, so when DeRozan turns into the main playmaker in Lowry’s absence, the Raptors continue to flourish.
“Yeah. In a sense, more so understanding — not to take something away from them guys over there — but me just understanding this opportunity where teams are really going to have to come after me. I can get my guys going,” said DeRozan. “It’s great when they see the balls go through the hole.”
At 47-30, the Raptors have five more games to reach the 50-win plateau. The main concern now is getting Lowry back in the fold. Everything is ready not only for Kyle’s return, but for yet another deep playoff run from this Toronto Raptor squad.
With reports suggesting that Lowry was practicing with the team this morning at the BioSteel Centre, things are looking up in the 6ix!