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NBA Toronto Raptors

Toronto Raptors: Kyle Lowry’s Successful Return Gives the Team Another Point Guard Controversy

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sport

The Toronto Raptors blew a double-digit lead with under five minutes remaining but managed to hang-on for a 104-97 overtime victory against the New Orleans Hornets.

Kyle Lowry returned to action after missing the previous seven games with a triceps injury and showed little rust in his performance. The point guard came off the bench to play 28 minutes and finished with 17 points, eight rebounds, three assists, and two blocks while going 5 for 7 from the field and 6 for 6 from the foul line.

Meanwhile, Jose Calderon had his worst performance since the game before Lowry was injured. He struggled going 1 for 6 from the floor, finishing with only two points however he did record six assists and five rebounds in 30 minutes of playing time. The biggest struggles for the team’s current starting point guard was on defense where Greivis Vasquez ate him alive on the offensive end finishing with 20 points, 14 assists and nine rebounds.

Vasquez was a major reason why the Hornets were able to battle back late and force overtime while Calderon was guarding him. However, in overtime coach Dwane Casey played Calderon and Lowry in the backcourt with Lowry switching onto Vasquez while Calderon guarded the rookie Austin Rivers.

It’s no secret Lowry is the better defender compared to Calderon, and the switch paid off as Vasquez was ineffective in overtime and the Raptors won. However, long will it be until Lowry returns as the team’s starter if Calderon struggles again at both ends of the floor? It’s only one game but the point guard controversy is getting started and it’s important to note John Lucas didn’t play at all against New Orleans. Lucas had stepped up in Lowry’s absence and proved he’s more than capable of being the team’s back-up point guard.

The biggest concern regarding Lowry’s return was whether or not he’d buy into the way Toronto was playing during their recent win streak. The Raptors had been playing excellent team basketball, and were winning games by unselfishly making the extra pass and getting everyone involved.

Lowry put to rest any doubts that he’d have any trouble buying into the team’s play by routinely dishing out the extra pass. His hard work on defense saw no limits as well, as with a minute and a half remaining in overtime, Anthony Davis was backing down the guard on offense. Lowry, who is nearly a foot shorter than Davis, bothered the taller player enough to force him into a missed shot attempt.

This is concerning for Calderon’s sake considering he struggled to guard Vaquez, who nearly recorded a triple-double on the Toronto guard. Meanwhile, Lowry is showing his fight on the defensive end by stepping up to guard opposing team’s post players late in a close game.

Calderon has proven he can run the team better offensively, Lowry gaining more assists than Calderon in his return doesn’t mean Lowry is better. However, Lowry’s biggest fault before the injury was that he could be selfish at times and force up bad shots instead of getting his team involved. There’s also no denying that Calderon was the spark that fueled the Raptors to their recent five game win streak with his unselfish play and by doing so earned the right to be the team’s starter.

Unfortunately for Calderon, if Lowry can continue to show his unselfish play like he did against the Hornets, then it’s just a matter of time before he returns as the team’s starting point guard. Lowry’s defense is too much better than Calderon’s for him to not be the starter if the duo are putting up similar numbers.

It was a successful return to action for Lowry but it wasn’t all positive for Toronto, because it was also the return of another point guard controversy.

Michael covers ACC and Big East basketball along with the Toronto Raptors for Rant Sports, you can follow him on Twitter @MichaelxRoberts