Kyle Lowry experienced some deja vu on Saturday. Not only did the Toronto Raptors drop their sixth straight Game 1 in the Lowry-DeMar DeRozan era, they did it in similar fashion to their past defeats. The Milwaukee Bucks trapped Lowry and DeRozan, throwing a bunch of long-limbed athletes their way, and the Raptors’ offense bogged down into isolation play, leading to a lopsided loss. Lowry, who averaged 22.4 points, 7.0 assists and 4.8 rebounds in his best regular season yet, finished with just four points on 2-for-11 shooting, including 0-for-6 from deep. Something had to change on Tuesday, and it did.
Leading up to Game 2, Lowry told reporters that he’d have to “force shots” against the Bucks. His teammates and coaching staff told him they wanted him to be more aggressive, despite the fact that Milwaukee would surely not tone down its physicality or its frantic, trapping defense. The way he played, though, it was clear that he didn’t have to force anything in order to be effective.
Lowry scored 22 points on 6-for-12 shooting, going 2-for-5 from deep and 8-for-9 from the free-throw line. When an opportunity to drive presented itself, he took it, but he didn’t always look to finish in a crowd of Bucks around the basket. He also dished five assists, grabbed four rebounds, with three steals and a block. This was his usual, efficient, All-Star-caliber self, and he rejected the notion that he’d made some big adjustment.
“Just playing,” Lowry said after Toronto’s 106-100 win. “Just going out there and taking my shots. Being aggressive. My teammates challenged me, like I said before. And I got to the free-throw line nine times. Got aggressive early and then second half DeMar kind of got himself going.”
DeRozan finished with a team-high 23 points, and in the biggest moment of the game, the Raptors gave him the ball. They were up 102-100, with one play to essentially seal it. When DeRozan couldn’t get a good look, he gave the ball up to Serge Ibaka, who found Lowry on the perimeter. He drove right, then hit Malcolm Brogdon with a behind-the-back dribble, stepping back and rising for a jumper. Despite a historically poor playoff field-goal percentage in the postseason, Lowry released it with all the confidence in the world, and he knocked it down.
Toronto coach Dwane Casey had said in no uncertain terms that Lowry needed to play better. When Lowry responded, Casey sounded as proud as can be.
“That’s just his competitive edge,” Casey said. “He’s one of those guys that’s a competitor and being with him over these years, I’ve seen him, been in the trenches with him before, and he’s always bounced back. That’s just who he is. He’s a competitor. He’s a fighter.
“I just knew that he wasn’t going to be satisfied the way he played in the first game. He’s human, everybody has a night like that. We just can’t panic every time that a guy has a tough night. You know, this is a tough league. Milwaukee is a very tough, grind-it-out type team and they’re going to make it hard on us. We gotta turn around and do the same thing with them.”
Lowry’s return to form was a reflection of his mindset and the team’s collective approach. Against the Bucks, hero ball is the worst strategy imaginable. If he had actually tried to take over instead of picking his spots, it would have been disastrous.
When Lowry didn’t have the ball, he stood far beyond the 3-point line in order to space the floor, and he moved in concert with his teammates. When he drew multiple defenders, he found the open man. When facing single coverage, he attacked the basket and made Milwaukee send help.
“That’s the way they play,” Lowry said. “They kind of make you get in there, they all come to the ball. You gotta kick out. You gotta make shots against those guys. Their length is their strength. Once you get into the paint, they’re all in there trying to get the ball, and you gotta kick out and we gotta make shots.”
For the majority of the game, Toronto did that. It made 14 3-pointers — a franchise playoff record — on 29 attempts. It had 24 assists on 37 made field goals. This was a team effort, but it all started with Lowry. Down 1-0, he understood the stakes, knew what the Bucks were doing and and refused to let them take him out of his game.
NBA Playoffs: Raptors’ Kyle Lowry didn’t have to ‘force shots’ to rise up in Game 2 – CBSSports.com