What's wrong with Kyle Lowry, and can he fix the Raptors in time?

Ball Don't Lie

Toronto Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry's struggles are no secret at this point in the NBA Playoffs.

Miracle buzzer beater be damned, Lowry has been bad through eight playoff games. Historically bad. As our own Dan Devine noted in his extensive recap of Toronto's 102-96 overtime Game 1 loss to the Miami Heat, the All-Star's 3-for-13 effort on Tuesday night compounds a 30.6 percent playoff shooting performance that marks the worst since San Francisco Warriors forward Wayne Hightower in 1963-64.

Even Lowry, casting pride aside, concedes this.

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“It sucks that I'm playing this bad when all eyes are on me because I know I'm way better than this,” Lowry told reporters in the aftermath. “So I've got to pick this s--- up."

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He's doing that the only way he knows how, shooting into the wee hours of the morning to find a solution.

But as Lowry himself acknowledged, "I shoot the ball well when I'm by myself. It's a big difference when you're by yourself than when you've got 10 guys out there." Bigger still when Hassan Whiteside's Mhuresanian wingspan looms even if Lowry beats willing Heat defenders Goran Dragic, Dwyane Wade, Josh Richardson and Justise Winslow — all of whom Erik Spoelstra threw at him — off the dribble.

Looking back, Lowry's shot selection was a hodgepodge of contested long jumpers, off-balance albeit open 3-point tries, running lobs before he ever got to the paint and forced attempts to beat the clock. It was a mess. A wild long 2 with Dragic nearby and that halfcourt miracle made up two of his three makes.

It's been 15 games since his last effective shooting night in a playoff victory — a 36-point effort against the Brooklyn Nets on April 30, 2014 — and his shot selection wasn't all that different. Lowry just made a whole lot of contested long 2's and off-balance 3's in an 11-for-19 performance that included 6-of-9 shooting from 3. The one marked difference was his willingness to attack the basket, which speaks to his confidence opposite a paint protected by Andray Blatche and Mirza Teletovic rather than Whiteside.

As simplified as it might sound, we might have to consider that Lowry is a generously listed 6-foot point guard who may not be as effective in the playoffs, when defenses are better, their intensity is higher and game plans are specifically designed to stop the other team's All-Star performers. We now have a 32-game sample size, and he's shooting 34.4 percent in his playoff career. Only Bob Cousy (34.2 percent) was a worse shooter among guards with that much postseason experience. Again, it's been 50 years.

The lone time Lowry even entered the paint for an attempt in Game 1 against Miami came midway through the fourth quarter, when he was working off the ball in a lineup that featured fellow guards Cory Joseph and DeMar DeRozan, along with wing DeMarre Carroll and big man Jonas Valanciunas. That's when Lowry beat the rookie Richardson backdoor for a crafty layup. So, is that a way to get him going?

Even then, though, Whiteside was on the sidelines, and Udonis Haslem was playing a 1:34 stretch of his five-plus ineffective minutes in the frontcourt. If Lowry can't do damage at the rim, where he shot 56 percent on four attempts and got to the free throw line 6.4 times a game during the regular season (down to two tries at the rim and 4.9 free throws per game in the playoffs), we're left with the simplest of solutions: Kyle Lowry needs to shoot better. That also happens to be the most difficult problem to solve.

After all, Lowry is making just 32 percent of his shots in the playoffs when the closest defender is four-plus feet away from him. He shot 42 percent from 3-point range in those scenarios in the regular season.

Likewise, he was incredibly effective on catch-and-shoot opportunities during the regular season, converting 46.3 percent of 281 3-point attempts in such scenarios, and lineups featuring Lowry and fellow point guard Cory Joseph outscored opponents by 12.7 points per 100 possessions over 74 games. That's certainly something Dwane Casey could try, since those lineups are still outscoring the Charlotte Hornets and Heat by 7.1 points per 100 possessions in eight playoff games, despite Lowry shooting just 3-of-23 on catch-and-shoot 3-point attempts this postseason. Just imagine if he ever gets it going.

That had to be all Lowry was doing when he was alone with a ball in Air Canada Centre at 1:30 a.m.

 

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Ben Rohrbach is a contributor for Ball Don't Lie and Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at rohrbach_ben@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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