The Kyle Lowry Ghost

Kyle Lowry’s entire playoff history is under scrutiny. Could it be that Lowry just isn’t worth a hill of beans in the post season? There are victims here. The We the North clique so desperate for affirmation is being pummeled over the head with Lowry’s sad impression of a NBA player. It is true what you have heard. The Lowry 2015 underachievement was the worst playoff FG% in the last 50 years by any player. Lowry’s 31% was worse than Larry Hughes 32% in 2006, and Lindsay Hunter’s 32% in 2005, and Jerry Stackhouse’s 32% in 2002. In 2016, he started off slow and ended up shooting 39.7%. In 2017, after one horrible game, and missing 9 shots, he posted 18.2% shooting.

Why is this a problem?

Because the Raptors identity and strength, not to mention their elite talent, comes from the combo of Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. The Raptors need both to perform at a high level to beat a young and talented, hyper-athletic Bucks team with Giannis Antetokounmpo turning into a superstar before our eyes.

This is old news, Lowry choking in the postseason. He has never ducked the issue. He has spoken of resurrections, explaining in brief detail that what happened the last few years in the postseason was forgotten history relegated to the back of a forgotten book, this hoax he had worked out of his blood. Obviously not. He was outplayed by a rookie drafted in the second round.

PG Matchup, Playoffs Points FG% 3-Point% Assists PER
Kyle Lowry 4.0 18.2% 0% 6 0.8
Malcolm Brogdon 16.0 46.2% 57.1% 2 16.5

So, what the hell happened? Why has Kyle Lowry’s game fallen off a cliff? How does an All-Star score 4 points in a playoff game?

The raw numbers: 18.2% shooting. An ungodly 0.0% from three as Lowry missed all six of his threes is ten steps below mediocre. Everyone has bad games, players are human. But Lowry can’t have a bad game in the playoffs. The Raptors need him too much. Plus, this season, he was an All-Star who made 46.4% of his shots and 41.2% of his threes. Where has Kyle Lowry gone? Who is this ghost?

2016-17 Lowry posted career numbers. Most minutes. Most field goals made. Highest field goal percentage. First time ever as a member of the exclusive 40% 3-point shooting club. Highest free throw percentage. Most rebounds. Most assists. Most points. Highest offensive rating.

A 22.4 points a game player reduced to 4.0 points makes no sense.  It wouldn’t matter if this wasn’t Lowry’s playoff history. 37.9% field goals. 30.1% from three. 14.5 points.  4.6 assists over the course of 45 playoff games.

Perhaps DeMar DeRozan is the better talent. But Lowry is the key to getting the Raptors out of this scary series with the Bucks. He is the point guard and coach on the floor, a gritty demeanor with the ball persona who dominates his position and guides the Raptors to heights not previously known. And then he falls apart.

Last year, against the Pacers in the playoffs, Lowry had one game where he made 5 shots. He had another game where he made 8 shots. The other five games were 3 shots (he did that twice) and 4 shots (he did that three times). In the same series, he had 3 games when he didn’t make a three. In three games, he made one triple. His best game, the third of the series, he shot 40% from three.

When it’s this bad over the course of a few years and everyone is piling on and the memes and Shaqtin’ A Fool are hysterically funny in their Lowry truth, the lazy analysis is that Lowry sucks in the playoffs. He’s not built for it. He’s mentally weak. But is it true?

Lowry has been in the playoffs four times, not including this year. His best playoff numbers were three years ago. He shot 40.4% and 39.5% from three but the Raptors lost a game 7 against the Nets as Paul Pierce did his Truth thing in the pressurized game 7. But Lowry’s other playoff appearances have been nightmares as the ghost has taken over. 33.3% shooting in 2009. 31.6% shooting in 2015. 39.7% shooting in 2016.

The irony of all of it is that the Raptors have only lost one game in the series, they can bounce back if they win tonight. They must win tonight. The one thing the Raptors are good at is losing the first game of a series at home. They did it last year too. Twice.

Tuesday’s game is going to be filled with all sorts of pressure the Raptors are used to since they saw it last year.  Kyle Lowry, the captain, cannot be Kyle Lowry, the ghost one minute longer. He has to show up. He has to show up. He has to lead. Or else, it will be true. Kyle Lowry shrinks this time of year. Again.


photo via llananba