An undeniable devotion to Toronto Raptors floor general Kyle Lowry has swept Tower City off its feet this season, and deservedly so, the point guard’s pitbull tenacity goes unmatched if you survey the history of the franchise. A hockey player’s mentality unleashed in sneakers.
It would have made for quite the interesting subplot if Lowry was able suit up against his former team, the Western Conference juggernaut Houston Rockets, but on the other hand, riding the pine actually presented an opportunity for this club. A chance for the Raptors’ brass, and it’s fans, to witness what this squad is truly made of — to answer the bell without the default-leaning on its leader for support. As astonishingly as it sounds, Lowry hasn’t missed a game all season, until now.
The Raptors’ philosophy has undoubtedly transformed into a playoff-caliber brand, but as evident in Monday night’s classroom study-session of its battle with the Miami Heat, the absence of Lowry has allowed for the Raptors of old to creep back into the picture at times, otherwise known as the matador-style defense while house hunting in jump-shot city.
Greivis Vasquez has shocked the world, as his desperation, Hail Mary style is a thing of the past; Jonas Valanciunas‘ ascendance continues to take shape (no longer a deer in the headlights when it comes to banging bodies in the paint), and the return of Patrick Patterson to the lineup reinforces the credibility of the second unit.
However, let’s address the necessity of the matter at hand. This was a DeMar DeRozan callout. An occasion for the Raps’ All-Star to prove his leadership, to validate what he means to this club, to cease playing the role of Robin to Lowry’s Batman, if just for one game. Playoff advancement depends on the stability of this organization.
The beginning of this showdown set a troublesome tone, as Toronto looked like high school juniors in need of running suicides after practice until it learned the meaning of “Getting back on D”; 2010’s 22-60 squad was born again. That is, until the 2014 version finally decided to show up.
DeRozan not only rose to the occasion, he added silencing any doubt of being capable to put the Raptors on his back and carry the lead-role weight. Going 10-19 in the field-goal department, combined with 80 percent production in 10 trips to the free throw line, was just the tip of the iceberg. The big picture representation was a massive success.
With a dead-heat race for the 3-seed coming down to the wire, this only further cements this franchise’s sustainability in the hunt. It turns out that Lowry’s injury was blessing in disguise; I guess the basketball gods work in mysterious ways.