By: Robert Williamson
The Injury Break
Kyle Lowry was incredible in his return to the hardwood on Wednesday night, netting a game high 27 points and earning a ten-assist double-double. The Raptors’ All-Star point guard was stellar against the Detroit Pistons after missing 21 games due to wrist surgery performed to remove loose bodies from his right wrist.
“We’re happy to have him back,” said DeMar DeRozan, the Raptors’ all-star shooting guard.
Lowry’s been sidelined since the NBA All-Star game on February 19, citing discomfort in his wrist after the showcase in New Orleans, before finally announcing he would miss several weeks to undergo surgery.
“Everybody drew the conclusion that it will be good to clean this out now rather than it be something that continues to re-occur,” said Masai Ujiri, Raptors’ president and general manager, in a statement to media after the surgery was announced. “With this kind of problem, when it lodges in the joint, there can be some discomfort one day and the next day you can feel good and then the next day you feel discomfort again, or there’s swelling.”
The surgery was cited as a preventative one to clear up any potential injury threats for the rest of the season.
The star point guard was out of action for 21 games, a period in which the Raps’ went 14-7. While that record doesn’t indicate a state of turmoil for the team while he was away, the stats show the team was affected by Lowry’s absence. For the few months prior to the surgery, the Raptors had the fourth highest offensive rating in the NBA, a stat that evaluates how many points a team scores per 100 possessions. During the month and a half Lowry was out, the team fell to fourteenth in offensive rating throughout the league. The team’s efficiency took a major hit as well, where they were ninth in true shooting percentage prior to the surgery, the group fell to seventeenth post-op. The assist to turnover ratio before he went under the knife? 1.52, a respectable number. After his departure? A measly 1.27, bad enough to be ranked last in the NBA in the category.
“Kyle Lowry’s going to play tonight,” said Raptors’ coach Dwayne Casey a few hours prior to tip-off in their game in Detroit Wednesday night.
The Raptors’ star guard tandem of DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry started the game as it was announced Lowry would be without a minutes restriction upon his return. It showed. The point guard played 42 out of a possible 48 minutes throughout the four quarters, shooting an incredibly efficient nine of 16 from the field.
Through the first two quarters, the Piston’s built up a 20-point lead before Lowry dialed in and helped his team to edge out Detroit by a score of 105-102.
“It’s nothing unfamiliar […] it’s expected of him,” DeMar DeRozan told reporters in a post-game scrum. “He’s definitely one of a kind.”
“I’m tired but we won and that’s all that matters,” said Lowry when probed about his significant workload straight out of injury.
The win elevated the Raptors’ to a 48-31 record, good enough for third in the east with three games left to play.
The Road Ahead
Lowry’s return marks a significant point in Toronto’s season as it’s the first time the team’s new core group, made up of recent acquisition Serge Ibaka and P.J. Tucker amongst others, will be playing and growing together.
The Raptors acquired Ibaka and Tucker at the trade deadline, adding much needed defensive depth to the squad but, other than Wednesday night’s game in Detroit, the two haven’t had a chance to mesh with Lowry. It’s a synergy the Raptors will need heading into the playoffs, as they face a potentially rougher road to the finals than in previous years. The Boston Celtics, after several disappointing years battling for the eighth and final playoff spot, has resurged as a basketball powerhouse, vying with Lebron James and his Cleveland Cavaliers at the top of the conference for home-court advantage throughout the post-season. Along with the Cavaliers, they look poised to make a deep run and a potential threat to claim one of the two spots in the Eastern Conference Final.
Though the Rap’s were able to make some big name additions to strengthen the team on paper, it’ll be meaningless until the players mesh and find a way to win together.
“We’re professionals, we’ll figure it out,” said Lowry after being asked about potential chemistry issues.
The playoffs start on April 15, giving the Raptors’ only nine days to iron out any issues that can arise when new faces, and egos, are brought in to help out.