Examining Kyle Lowry’s Playoff Struggles

Kyle Lowry
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In their last few playoff pushes, the Toronto Raptors have, along with all other Eastern Conference challengers, been inevitably snuffed out by LeBron James. Every time, two men bore the brunt of the blame for the Raptors. Kyle Lowry and current San Antonio Spur, DeMar DeRozan, were both pegged as “playoff chokers” after several years of losses. Kyle Lowry’s playoff struggles are exaggerated. Here are some facts and stats to refute those claims.

Examining Kyle Lowry’s Playoff Struggles

Lowry’s Performances in past Postseasons

Setting aside the 2014-2015 playoff series against the Washington Wizards in which the Raptors were swept and Lowry scored just 12.3 points per game on horrific shooting numbers (21.7% from deep, 31.6% from the field), Lowry’s numbers have remained relatively the same in the playoffs compared to the regular season. 

In some seasons, Lowry even showed improved stats in the playoffs. His field goal percentage remains roughly the same, his three-point percentage dips just slightly, and his scoring (again omitting 2014-15) is steady throughout. Even when Lowry’s stats dipped again in the 2016-17 playoffs, it was because he was playing through an injury that eventually sidelined him against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Lowry had a positive net plus-minus in each of his postseasons in Toronto. In fact, in his last three playoff runs, he’s shot 48.1% from the field, a mark well above his career regular-season average of 42.4%.

Round One Game One Struggles

The intriguing part of Lowry’s playoff “struggles” is that he does struggle in opening games of the playoffs. Including this season, Lowry is a combined 11-50 from the field for 33 points in the last five years. Also, he’s 2-27 from three-point range.  With Lowry on the roster, the Raptors have won just one of their six round-one first games. Although that stat is no uglier than his shooting, it speaks to just how important Lowry is to team success. However, moving forward from that first game of the first round, he excels. He bounces back for a strong second game. In Lowry’s time as a Raptor, the team has won five of its six first-round, second-game matchups.

2018-2019 Playoff Performance (So Far)

This season’s playoffs have been no exception to that rule. The media slammed Lowry for his 0-7 shooting night in — you guessed it — the first game of the postseason. That game was a three-point loss to the seventh-seeded Orlando Magic. Given the Raptors’ recent playoff history, Raptors fans had a right to be worried. However, they had no real reason to be. In a comfortable 29-point victory in the second game of the series, Lowry scored 22 points on 8 of 13 shooting (2-4 from three) with seven assists and four boards. 

In the third game of the series, Lowry scored less (12 points), but, as always, positively impacted the game in other ways. He finished with ten assists and played ferocious defense. Although he had a relatively average rebounding game, one of Lowry’s five boards was crucial to the Raptors’ win. As time dwindled, the Magic were making a run, having cut their deficit to just three points. With the shot clock expiring, Kawhi Leonard put up a mid-range jumper, which fell short. Lowry threw himself at the ball, securing it and passing it safely out to a teammate to seal the game.

That reckless ball-want, aptitude to make winning plays, and leadership-by-example are exactly what Raptors fans have come to expect from Lowry on a nightly basis. 

Kyle Lowry Is a Playoff Performer

For those who claim that the stats don’t tell the full story -which is true to an extent-, Lowry never lacks the intangibles that make up the story beyond statistics. His contagious Pitbull-like stubbornness, his unrivaled willingness to take charges, and his leadership are invaluable to the Raptors.

For those who are concerned about the stats, Lowry’s playoff struggles are not apparent when you compare his playoff stats to his regular season stats. Lowry gets a bad rap when it comes to playoff performance, there’s no doubt about it. The truth is, he really doesn’t deserve it. Even after notorious bad starts in game one, Lowry performs at a high level throughout the rest of the postseason.

 

Main Photo:

CHICAGO, USA – OCTOBER 13: Kyle Lowry (7) of Toronto Raptors in action during a preseason NBA game between Chicago Bulls and Toronto Raptors at the United Center on October 13, 2017 in Chicago, United States. (Photo by Bilgin S. Sasmaz/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)