After the Raptors beat the Magic in five games earlier in the playoffs, I wrote how this year’s Toronto team appears to be different from years past. After three games against the Sixers in Round 2, they’ve reverted back to their old ways. The Raptors are down 2-1 in the series, and unless someone not named Kawhi Leonard steps up, they’ll be going home earlier than they want.
Leonard has been spectacular all playoffs, averaging 32 points on 19 shots per game while shooting 57% from the field and 46% from three. He’s been ramping up to his true, terrifying defensive form all the while, rotating between Jimmy Butler, Ben Simmons, and Tobias Harris with ease. Leonard is giving Toronto exactly what Masai Ujiri envisioned when he shipped off DeMar DeRozan and Jakob Poetlfor Leonard’s services. It’s everyone else that’s been the problem.
Pascal Siakam is doing his best, but he isn’t enough of a threat outside of the transition game to make a pivotal difference. Marc Gasol isn’t there to score, and Serge Ibaka topped out as an average third wheel years ago. Danny Green is a role player and can’t be expected to shoulder the scoring load. As has been the pattern over the last half-decade, it’s coming down to Kyle Lowry. Lowry is the only Raptor with the potential to be a true difference-maker, and he just hasn’t lived up to that. He played 38 minutes in their Game 3 loss on Thursday, and scored precisely seven points on 2-10 shooting with five rebounds and five assists. That’s a fine stat line for Fred VanVleet, but for the team’s starting point guard who plays all but 10 minutes of the game? Unacceptable.
Lowry has his hands full chasing J.J. Reddick around the perimeter on defense, but he’s just too important as that second or third option to completely disappear like he did in Game 3, and has done before in playoffs of the past. On a game-to-game basis, Toronto can get by with a good night by Danny Green or one of their bench guys. But if they want to stick around in this year’s playoffs and outlast Philly in a seven game series, Leonard needs help, and Lowry is the only one who can provide it.