Lowry impresses in Raptors win over Wizards
By MIKE GANTER, QMI Agency
TORONTO - Kyle Lowry came as advertised.
The perfect fit for the Raptors’ new up tempo offence, but Jose Calderon hardly looked like a guy ready to just hand over the offensive reins either.
Not that the new offence has all the kinks worked out just yet. No, there’s still plenty of work to do in that regard, but as far as Lowry being a nice fit, the early returns were very favourable.
The first basket as a Raptor for the former Houston Rockets point guard was a just what you would expect from a guy with the attacking reputation that Lowry brings.
Lowry split two defenders at the top of the key and then drove the lane for an easy lay-up.
“As you can see he’s a rolling pin going to the basket,” head coach Dwane Casey said of Lowry. “He gets to where he wants to go with the ball. He’s heady. He sees things other people don’t see and he got Landry going.”
Lowry’s last points came from the free-throw line, where he was a perfect 4-for-4 in the final 16 seconds to help the Rpators close out a 104-101 win.
But perhaps the biggest impact Lowry had on the night was with fellow newcomer Landry Fields.
Fields, who had made just seven shots combined in his first three games pre-season games with the Raps, was a robust 5-for-9 after three quarters and finished the night with a team-high 15 points.
The bulk of that scoring came off of Lowry pushing the ball up court to a running Fields who finished with easy lay-ins.
For the first three games, Casey kept talking about all the work that Fields was doing with his cuts and screens that didn’t make the scoresheet.
Wednesday night Fields’ work did show up mostly because Lowry made sure it did.
“The best example of this came in the second quarter with Lowry coming off a Jonas Valanciunas pick with the big Lithuanian rolling to the basket. With the defence all closing in on Valanciunas, Fields made a beautiful cut to the basket and was rewarded with a fine feed from Lowry and the easy lay-in.
When Fields ran hard in transition, Lowry found him there too also resulting in a couple of easy buckets.
“(Making those off ball cuts), that’s his thing,” Lowry said of Fields. “He’s a great overall player but he’s a great cutter and that’s one of this strongest attributes.”
Lowry wound up playing 25 minutes going 4-for-10 from the field for 14 points and added six assists.
Not to be outdone, Calderon was his normally efficient self coming off the bench for Lowry for 23 minutes with 12 points and eight assists.
Both point guards got the opportunity in the fourth quarter to play with the third point guard John Lucas. Lucas looked comfortable sharing the duties with both men for a a five-minute stint each.
AND THEN THERE’S AMIR
The best shooter on the night for the Raptors was a bit of a surprise, but not to those who have been spending any time at all with Amir Johnson. The Raptors centre worked diligently on his shot this off-season and the evidence came Wednesday with a 5-for-6 shooting night from the floor, nothing from any closer than 18 feet.
Johnson didn’t miss a shot until a the 5:50 mark of the fourth when he missed from just inside the three-point line.
LONG AND NOT SO LONG
Odds from Bodog.ca for the NBA MVP award winner list two Raptors, surprisingly neither named Lowry. Both Andrea Bargnani and DeMar DeRozan are listed at 300-1 odds to win the 2012-2012 NBA MVP award.
Much shorter odds for a Raptor can be found in the NBA rookie-of-the-year wagering where Valanciunas is at 12-1 odds for top newcomer to the league. Teammate Terrence Ross is 30-1 for the same award.
It wasn’t all puppy dogs and rainbows, however, for the Raptors. “Those stretches we had with mental mistakes and fumbles and non-boxouts and lackadaisical run backs,” Casey began. “We can’t have those stretches and be a good team.” Casey also was unimpressed with the slow starts the Raptors continue to be plagued with ... Lowry got the start Wednesday against the Wizards, but Casey was making no promises as to which point guard would start Friday in Montreal against the Knicks or Monday back at the ACC against Milwaukee. “We’ll see the next few days,” Casey said following the morning shootaround. “It’s not pre-determined. We’ll go day-by-day. I’d like to get a solid rotation by this weekend or by Milwaukee next week.” ... Ross was a scratch from Wednesday’s game after taking a bump on his knee in practice on Tuesday according to Casey.
Bargnani left the game midway through the third quarter with a left calf bruise. He did not return. Apparently he was kicked in the calf ... DeRozan continues to show that the early get-to-the-basket determination is not a fleeting thing. At one point in the first half he posted up his man and took him to the basket on four consecutive trips and either scored the bucket or was sent to the line ... Valanciunas was asked after shootaround the difference he sees in the offence when Lowry is running things compared to when Calderon is running the point. “Both are really high-level players,” he said. “Maybe Jose likes a little bit slower game, a more organized game. Kyle likes to run the floor and push the ball. But both are high level players. They can both bring a lot to this team.”