North of the 400

North of Toronto, South of a championship

A good start for the Raptors and a bad turn for Lowry’s ankle

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It’s not exactly great times in Toronto sports right now: the Jays season ended in disaster, with injuries, a manager who wanted to be in Boston and a player writing slurs on his face. The Argos are underwhelming and limping into the playoffs: they’re 9-9, with a negative point differential.  The Bills, that part-time resident of the Rogers Centre, are wasting away in a weak AFC East, even looking worse than the rudderless New York Jets.

And the Maple Leafs? They’re still locked out.

So the Raptors it is. The Raptors, which had a ton of hype coming into this season – Jonas is finally here! Bargnani is healthy! And DeMar just signed an extension! – are the biggest game in town. For the first time in a few years, they’re a must-watch even among non-hoops junkies. Their ratings reflect this: their season opener against Indiana was their highest rated game since the 2009-10 season, with about 346,000.

That’s more than watched the Sunday night NFL game between New Orleans and Denver on October 28 or the Martinsville 500. It’s even outdrew CBC’s classic hockey broadcast. But it’s way behind the CFL and World Series. The Raptors are becoming a bigger draw, but they aren’t a national attraction. Not yet, anyway.

There was a lot of things to like in their first game, except maybe the final score; it was a close win for Indiana, a team that’s probably going to the postseason this year. There was the debut of Jonas Valanciunas, who has looked good at times and not so hot at others. There’s a new role for Jose Calderon, who comes off the bench and can play off the ball. And, biggest of all, is Toronto’s big splash of the summer: Kyle Lowry.

Through four games, Lowry is statistically the best player on the Raptors. His PER is an off-the-charts 30.9. His shooting is accurate (a .703 TS percentage), efficient (a 6.36 eFG) and he’s already at 0.9 Win Shares. What’s better for the Toronto fan is that Lowry’s also the most fun-to-watch player the Raptors have had in years. He’s constantly moving, all over the ball and not a bad defender. He plays like he’s got something to prove. Here’s his stat line from the Raptors first win of this season, a 105-86 win over Minnesota: 22 points, seven rebounds, three steals and five assists. Basketball-reference gives three of his four games in a Raptors uniform a Game Score of 22 or above. Last season, Calderon had just four games like that all season long.

That fourth game is the one to be concerned about. It was last night, election night in America, against Oklahoma City. It was the second road game of the season and first of a two-game road swing. It was also the second time the Raptors had been on NBA-TV this season, which gave the game a pretty good-sized national audience.

For most of his time on the court, Lowry had been matched up against Russell Westbrook, who was having a good night. About halfway through the second quarter, Lowry went up for a rebound and landed on Serge Ikaba’s foot. Lowry’s ankle turned inward and he fell to the floor. TSN had this all on their live broadcast; they had switched to an under-the-basket camera before Lowry went up for the rebound. They kept him in frame as he went down, as play moved away and Lowry starting groaning in pain and struggled to get up. If it was anywhere near as bad as it looked, Toronto got to see the Raptors best player get hurt in a very loud and direct way.

It was cringe-inducing television. I can’t think of the last time I saw something like this in any sports event: a player getting hurt while in closeup, with the broadcast staying on them while they were obviously hurt. For instance, when Garbajosa broke his leg, I remember the camera cutting away. When I did OHL games back in Oshawa, if someone got hurt, we’d switch to camera one, the wide-angle shot of the rink from mid-ice. I don’t know why TSN stayed on Lowry. Maybe they didn’t realize.

Lowry left the game and didn’t return. The Raptors lost the game, 108-88, and it wasn’t even that close. But we all move on. Lowry isn’t supposed to play tonight against Dallas and there isn’t any word on when he’ll be back. The Raptors Twitter account says he’ll be reassessed daily (I like to imagine this also happens on Twitter: “Still swollen Kyle?” asks the Raptors account and he replies with an Instagrammed photo of a walking boot). The Raptors have a couple days off this week before a three-in-four-days stretch that includes Utah, a rematch with Indiana and Philadelphia. I know I’m not the only person hoping Lowry’s ankle is healed up by then.


Written by M.

November 7, 2012 at 8:10 pm

2 Responses

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  1. Reblogged this on Walter's Basketball Blog.


    November 8, 2012 at 1:55 am

  2. […] extension. And the team has started the year off poorly: they’re 1-6 right now and Kyle Lowry, their best player, is […]

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