Kyle Lowry has made 13 of his last 52 shots. This is important because Lowry is a potential All-Star, the best overall player on the Houston Rockets (12-9), and likely the key to a playoff appearance for the franchise after a two-year drought. He averages around 15 points, six rebounds, eight assists, and two steals per contest. Lowry flirts with triple-doubles like MJ flirts with young models, and he already has one notched under his belt in 2011-12. Also capable of high-scoring outbursts when his team needs one, Lowry has five games of 20 points or more, including 33 in an overtime victory over Portland. And finally, Lowry was on track to grasp the Rockets’ crunch-time scorer’s role, shooting over 35 percent from downtown and fearless chucking the last shots on a consistent basis.
Long story short, Houston is treading water if Lowry cannot provide his usual heroics. The Rockets are currently a team dreadfully stuck in the middle of the NBA pack, defeating the lower-tier teams and, minus the occasional upset, falling victim to teams the prognosticators predict them to lose to. With options like Kevin Martin, Courtney Lee, and Luis Scola, Lowry doesn’t necessarily need to assume his team’s scoring burden every night, but in addition to the recent stream of bricks, Lowry isn’t getting his teammates the ball in good positions either. Lowry has distributed three, four, and five assists in the recent trifecta of games — two of them losses — and is failing to make an impact down the stretch with such below average play. Houston faces eight of its next nine opponents on the road, including six straight, and recent losses to the Milwaukee Bucks and Minnesota Timberwolves at the Toyota Center do not bode well.
Some are blaming Lowry’s recent legal troubles — he was accused of assault for throwing a basketball at a female referee in the offseason — for the downturn in his play, but he was playing well immediately after the allegations so this doesn’t make sense. Besides, it isn’t as if media outlets are hammering him.
I think the problem may be fatigue or an inability to handle the scrutiny and pressure that come with increased expectations. Lowry is finally generating All-Star buzz for his improved play, and with more attention comes more pressure to perform. He has tried to play for the foul more than actually creating a smart shot, and his recently wild, turnover-prone play — Lowry is forcing a ton of lay ups in traffic — may be a product of trying to live up to his now-lofty expectations. And it’s no surprise that Houston relies on Lowry heavily for its success, as Kevin McHale’s recent rotations have proven, so perhaps the toll of carrying the team is physically wearing Lowry down. Houston fans will have to wait and see.