TORONTO – It’s been a long two days for Kyle Lowry.
The Toronto Raptors departed for Washington on Thursday afternoon, looking to turn around their playoff series against the Wizards that has gone horribly awry. And Lowry was looking for a little redemption.
“I relish just being able to play another game because my first two haven’t been well,” Lowry said. “That’s what I’m looking forward to.”
The all-star point guard, who was averaging 20 points a night through the early part of the regular season, has just 13 points through two games, and with 10 fouls, has been forced to sit for large chunks of both games.
“Literally I played 12 minutes in a half. I’ve got to find a way to stay on the floor,” Lowry said. “That’s all that really matters to me. Staying on the floor.”
There’s also questions about his health. A back injury sidelined him for nine games down the stretch, then a shin contusion forced him out of Game 2 with six minutes to play.
Lowry insisted he feels “fine.” A couple of minutes later Patrick Patterson told reporters “we would love Kyle to be Kyle, but we all know that Kyle is battling some injuries right now.”
While coach Dwane Casey said “no-one is 100 per cent who is still playing right now” on any team, he does believe Lowry’s struggles have a lot to do with his health.
“You don’t miss as much time as he missed toward the end (of the season). . . there’s always that big debate, rust versus rest going into the playoffs,” Casey said. “For me, we’ve got to get Kyle back to the level he was. We have a short time, two games, to get it down. But if anyone can do it, I believe Kyle can do it.”
The Raptors are gunning for just their second appearance in the second round of the playoffs in their 20-year franchise history. And Casey had a strong message for them before they walked out of practice Thursday.
“If you’re not going to Washington to compete, don’t come out to the airport,” he said. “We’ll get you a nice meal somewhere in Toronto at a nice restaurant and you can watch it on television.”
“No one stepped forward so that meant that everyone who gets on the plane is ready to compete,” he added.
Washington embarrassed the Raptors in Game 2. Wizards point guard John Wall virtually roamed free, lighting it up for 26 points and 17 assists, to become just the fourth player in the last 25 years to hit those marks in a playoff game.
The Wizards had all the swagger as well. Numerous clips on social media show Bradley Beal trash-talking Toronto players.
“That’s all competition,” Patterson said. “That’s all the game of basketball, whether it’s playoffs, whether it’s pre-season, whether it’s a regular season game, whether it’s going up against your rival opponent. There’s always trash talking, there’s always explicit language, there’s always pushing and shoving, there’s always a physical nature of the game. And we embrace it, they embrace it, if your an athlete you embrace it.”
The Raptors said they have to rediscover their own swagger for Game 3.
“It starts when you walk into the building, with your demeanour and your attitude,” Patterson said. “Then as the game progresses forward, if you’re making shots, if you’re playing defence, if you’re getting stops then your confidence is going to go through the roof. That encouragement, that positive mindset and that