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Kyle Lowry, Raptors


Kyle Lowry must elevate his play for the Raptors to dethrone the Warriors

There’s plenty of blame to go around after the Toronto Raptors failed to seize a commanding 2-0 series lead in the NBA Finals against the two-time defending champion Golden State Warriors. The Raptors shot a lackluster 37.2 percent from the field, knocking down only 11-of-38 three-pointers (28.9 percent) in their Game 2 loss. They didn’t manage a single point for the first 5:40 of the third quarter, a period they were outscored 34-21 by the visitors.

But the most glaring no-show performance came via point guard Kyle Lowry, who posted a game-worst minus-17 in 28 minutes in the defeat. Lowry had just 13 points on 4-of-11 shooting with two assists as the Raptors ceded homecourt advantage. He fouled out with 3:52 remaining on an inexplicable reach-in on DeMarcus Cousins 92 feet away from the Warriors’ basket.

Lowry, the Raptors’ longest tenured player and former face of the franchise before the blockbuster trade for superstar Kawhi Leonard, has failed to make an impact on this series. He’s averaged 10 points on a dreadful 30 percent shooting in Games 1 and 2.

Pascal Siakam’s 32-point explosion in Game 1 overshadowed Lowry’s shooting struggles (2-of-9 in the series opener). But with Siakam held in check with 12 points on 5-of-18 shooting in Game 2, Lowry’s poor outing did not go unnoticed. For the second time this postseason, he fouled out in a close contest.

“A couple of them [called fouls] I didn’t think I fouled,” Lowry said after the loss. “At the end of the day, I just have to put myself in a better position not to foul.”

Lowry has failed to be the secondary star on offense Toronto needs to pull off the upset. Backup point guard Fred VanVleet has outplayed Lowry these Finals, averaging 16 points off the bench. Head coach Nick Nurse has used both guards in tandem this postseason to great success, but did not have that luxury with Lowry in foul trouble all night long.

An elite defensive guard, Lowry has made his presence felt on that end of the floor. He has drawn 18 charges in the playoffs, more than twice as many as any other player. But that has not come without its risks. Lowry got called for two blocking fouls in Game 2, attempting to draw charges in both occasions. Lowry’s aggressiveness makes him a great defender. However, his sixth foul, where he tried to swipe the ball from Cousins, was inexcusable. Lowry needs to play smarter so he can actually be on the court for the game’s most crucial moments.

Kyle Lowry

Lowry must insert himself offensively when the series shifts to Oracle Arena for Games 3 and 4. His tendency to blend in on offense and serve merely as a facilitator (which he has not done well either) is a recipe for disaster. Attacking the basket more often is essential for Lowry, who has attempted only five free throws in these Finals.

Leonard has carried Toronto for the majority of its run to the Finals, but will need his teammates to step up for the franchise to claim its first NBA title. Siakam came through with a signature performance in Game 1. Now it’s time for Lowry, the Raptors’ $31 million five-time All-Star, to deliver on the league’s biggest stage.