Raptors toothless in Lowry's absence

Portland Trail Blazers forward Zach Collins dunking over Toronto Raptors guard Danny Green in the second half at Moda Centre on Friday. Portland won the National Basketball Association game 128-122 and improved to 16-13 this term.
Portland Trail Blazers forward Zach Collins dunking over Toronto Raptors guard Danny Green in the second half at Moda Centre on Friday. Portland won the National Basketball Association game 128-122 and improved to 16-13 this term.PHOTO: REUTERS

PORTLAND • Kyle Lowry has taken plenty of flak after putting up poor numbers during a four-game run in the National Basketball Association earlier this month, going just four from 28.

But there is a reason why ESPN commentator Skip Bayless calls him, and not Kawhi Leonard, the "heart and engine" of the Toronto Raptors.

After breaking out of his scoring slump this week with 21 points and 23 points against the Los Angeles Clippers and the Golden State Warriors respectively, his team were counting on him to make it 3-0 on the road and extend their league-leading record at the Portland Trail Blazers.

However, Lowry could not shake off a tight thigh and missed the game. The return of Leonard after two games out could not make up for the absence of the league's top assist-maker, who is averaging 10.0 points this season.

Damian Lillard scored 24 points as the Trail Blazers had eight players in double figures, defeating the Raptors 128-122 on Friday night.

Portland's bench totalled a season high of 58 points, including 16 from Zach Collins, with Seth Curry adding 13 as they improved to 16-13 while Toronto dropped to 23-8.

Although Leonard led with 28 points and Fred VanVleet contributed a season high of 21, the Raptors missed the play-making ability of Lowry as well as the defensive statistics of Jonas Valanciunas.

The centre, who is averaging 7.2 rebounds this term, will be out for at least a month after undergoing surgery to repair a dislocated left thumb.

Afterwards, VanVleet felt the loss had been harsh and claimed "if Kyle plays, we win the game".

Raptors coach Nick Nurse also bemoaned his team's injuries, and they were further hit by Pascal Siakam's departure in the second half after he landed hard on his back and injured it.

Nurse told The Toronto Sun: "We've got no Kyle and no J.V. and then we lose Pascal midway through the game to a tight back.

"So, yeah, we're playing whoever we feel has got it going. I thought the spacing was getting poor. I was searching a little bit."

His players now head to Denver to play the Nuggets today, which will conclude their four-game road trip.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 16, 2018, with the headline 'Raptors toothless in Lowry's absence'. Print Edition | Subscribe