The Toronto Raptors attempt to dig themselves out of a 4-19 early season hole just became that much more difficult with injuries to starters Kyle Lowry and Andrea Bargnani.
Lowry will be gone for at least 10 days with a partial tear in his right triceps muscle, while Bargnani is sidelined indefinitely with sprained right wrist anda ligament tear in his right elbow. Both players were injured at the end of a five game west coast trip that finished with a blowout loss to the Portland Trailblazers.
The news couldn’t have come at a worse time for the struggling Raptors, as the team could use all the help it can get with only one win in their past 13 games. Only eight players saw court time against the Brooklyn Nets in the team’s recent loss with injuries already to Allan Anderson, Landry Fields and Linas Kleiza. Now top that off with the Lowry and Bargnani injuries. The team was also be without Amir Johnson who was serving his one game suspension for throwing his mouthguard at an official.
Lowry, who was already forced to miss six games earlier in the season, was just getting back to the form that had fans forgetting about Steve Nash choosing the Los Angeles Lakers over Toronto. Lowry began the season averaging 23.7 points, 7.3 points, seven assists and 3.6 steals per game before getting hurt with an ankle injury in the fourth game of the season.
Upon returning, Lowry wasn’t the same player that began the season, as the point guard appeared to be a step slower and not nearly as aggressive in taking control of the team. He struggled to shoot, finishing 40% or lower from the field in 8 of 11 games before the injury against Portland. However, he recently showed signs of returning to the player that kicked off the season, recording his first double-double of the season in the second game of the west coast trip with 34 points, 11 assists and five rebounds in a losing effort to the Sacramento Kings.
Unlike Lowry, Bargnani hasn’t had a part of the season where he’s been a consistent performer. For every good game the former first overall pick has he seems to follow it up with a poor shooting performance in the next game. The seven-foot power forward’s best stretch of the season came when he recorded point totals of 22, 25 and a season high 34 over a three game span.
He quickly followed up the season high with a 2 for 19 shooting performance against the San Antonio Spurs finishing with only four points. After the game he called his performance the worst shooting of his life, saying he’s never shot the ball that bad in any game he’s played.
The part that has agitated fans the most is his reluctance to drive or even resist the urge to force off-balanced three-pointers. Even in the game against the Spurs, instead of trying to break the slump by attacking the foul line, Bargnani refused to leave the three-point line going 0-7 from long range.
Fans have begun to boo him as his laziness on defense and poor rebounding was often provided a pass given his ability to shoot the ball so well. With Bargnani averaging his lowest averages since his sophomore year, shooting 31.9% from the field and only grabbing 4.4 rebounds a game, the tolerance for his lackluster defense has all but faded among the frustrated fan base.
The one bright spot in the dim Raptors season could be that the team appears to have two players hungry and ready to prove they deserve a spot in an NBA starting lineup.
Jose Calderon has played exceptional with Lowry banged up, as a starter for eight game he’s averaging 12.5 points and 12.2 assists. In the first game without Lowry and Bargnani, Calderon had 10 points and 15 assists in a 94-88 loss to the Brooklyn Nets.
Ed Davis also finished with a double-double replacing Bargnani in the starting line-up against the Nets, matching a career high of 24 points after shooting 11 for 13 from the field to go along with 12 rebounds. Davis leads the team in rebounding with 5.8 per game despite coming off the bench in all but two games for the Raptors.
Toronto’s chance of turning around the season gets slimmer by the minute but if they have any shot at it they’ll need Calderon and Davis to continue to play at a high level.