Right when everything seemed to be coming together for the Raptors and they could begin galvanizing as a squad for the second half of the season (and a huge divisional game versus the Boston Celtics), they revealed their All-Star point guard, the lifeblood of their team, Lowry, the player who takes the ball at all the hard times, was pronounced out of the lineup because of a right wrist injury (shooting hand).
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The injury originally sustained against Charlotte on Feb. 15 kept nagging at Lowry (never mind that he took part in All-Star weekend…), finally resulting in the decision to skip waiting for it to get better and have the surgery now. The hope is for him to be ready by the end of the season just in time for the playoffs.
Now, the Raptors’ real depth will be tested. Do they have enough to compensate for Lowry’s loss to get by until the playoffs?
The goal in the final 19 games remaining before the playoffs would be to get at least third place in the conference, so they could avoid playing Cleveland until the East finals. But this year, unlike last year really, there are three others teams in the East who are worthy opponents and could easily slide in front of Toronto.
The good news? There are two items. First, the Raptors have Joseph, a quality backup, at point guard. They also have 6′-5” Delon Wright who recently returned from injury (whose length is a great factor on defence) as well as rookie Fred VanFleet, who has shown flashes of real quality.
Secondly, but foremost, through these trades made, the Raptors have adopted a new defensive identity. Ujiri and management addressed the issues. They can be more versatile and cover opposing players better. It’s no longer as easy to score on the Raptors.
Will they be able to score enough points? DeRozan has been able to pick up the slack in a big way. As long as he continues doing his thing, and Ibaka contributes at this level, the Raptors should have enough depth (otherwise by committee) to hold the fort till Lowry returns.
There will be nights where open shots just don’t seem to fall for the Raps. The hope is for even on such nights that this new defensive stature can keep them in games until the shots begin to fall. Then, when Lowry returns, the Raptors can then be deemed “all-in.”