Well, it’s that time of year again. After a regular season of whispers turned shouts about a deep postseason run up north, it looks like we’ve reached the same, predictable ending. But who’s surprised?
Since the 2013-14′ season, Toronto has been the epitome of a regular season team. So let’s start there.
It was quite the regular season for Toronto in 2013. A year after missing the postseason, their 24-year old shooting guard and 28-year old point guard looked poised to be a force in the league for years to come. Not just because of their relatively young ages. Not even just because of their explosiveness in the backcourt.
It was because despite an evolving NBA, their two stars excelled in traditional roles. DeRozan made a living with his mid-range shot and ability to draw contact, when the typical shooting guard specialized in the 3-point shot. Lowry made a living through physical interior play, when the typical point guard specialized in finesse, often shying away from contact.
So it was a little deflating to the organization and players alike when they were upset in the first round as the 3-seed. But it was excusable. It was Toronto’s first taste of postseason basketball with their new core. They’d be back…
DeRozan and Lowry put up similar stats the following year, and expectations were that they’d at least get out of the first round. But that wasn’t the case. Not even close. In one of the most embarrassing series in recent memory, the Raps were ripped apart in every facet by the lower seeded Wizards. This put to bed all talk that last season’s loss underperformance was a fluke. In fact, it birthed a narrative. The Raptors are a regular season team, nothing more.
The Raps (sort of) put a dent in that narrative the following season, when they advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals. But they were clearly the second best team in the conference, and were pushed to 7 games by inferior teams in the previous two rounds. It’s the exception, not the rule.
And the rule is manifesting itself again this season. DeRozan and Lowry are struggling, and so are Raptors. And it’s all coming against a lower-seeded opponent.
So why is it that DeMar DeRozan shoots 6% less in the postseason. Why is it that Lowry averages almost 6 points below his regular season average in the playoffs, despite higher volume?
Well, it’s because that they haven’t perfected their aforementioned “traditional roles” to the point that they’ll translate to the postseason. DeRozan’s game is centered around the mid-range and the line. While a mid-range shot will always be a mid-range shot, a foul in the regular season is not always a foul in the playoffs. DeRozan has trouble getting to the line in the playoffs, forcing him to shoot more from the perimeter. And his 3-point shot is probably his worst attribute.
With Lowry, it’s much of the same. The physicality in the postseason is amplified, and no matter how hard he tries to be tough down low, 6’0” height will always hold him back.
The issue with these two comes down to their style of play rather than jitters, or any other mental factor. Which makes it an even harder fix. As long as they play the way they do, they’ll continue to struggle in the playoffs. Tough luck.