Raptors, Kyle Lowry look to recover from latest slow start


TORONTO (AP) Kyle Lowry is experiencing playoff deja vu, only with a twist. The All Star point guard for the Toronto Raptors says his latest Game 1 failure doesn’t just feel familiar, it’s even worse than those that came before.

Lowry scored four points in Saturday’s 97-83 loss to Milwaukee, connecting on just two of 11 field goal attempts and finishing 0 for 6 from 3-point range.

His disappointing performance brought back memories of the series-opening struggles Lowry faced last year, including 3 for 13 efforts against both Indiana in the first round and Miami in the second, and a 4 for 14 effort against Cleveland in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

Sitting slumped in a chair at Toronto’s practice facility on Sunday, still dealing with flu-like symptoms, a despondent-looking Lowry said he was struggling to ditch the disappointment of his latest playoff stinker.

“It gets worse,” Lowry said. “It got worse.”

Milwaukee’s long, athletic defenders made life rough on Lowry in Game 1, giving him little room to manoeuvre. On every attempted drive, he said, “I had four arms around me. Every shot I took was contested or run off.

“They did a good job. They game-planned really well for us.”

Saturday’s contest was Lowry’s fifth after being sidelined for 21 games following wrist surgery. He finished with six assists and two rebounds.

“It’s one game,” coach Dwane Casey said Monday. “I don’t think we should overreact. Everybody has a rough night. I know Kyle will find his way back to his star status.”

Lowry’s career playoff shooting percentage of .379 is the second lowest figure of any active player with at least 500 postseason shot attempts. Clippers guard Jamal Crawford is at .378 after going 4 for 12 in Game 1.

Fellow All Star DeMar DeRozan is Lowry’s closest friend on the Raptors, but said he hasn’t felt the need to deliver any kind of message of support or encouragement to his locker room neighbour. DeRozan said he expects Lowry to contribute any way he can in Game 2, even if his shots aren’t falling.

“Nobody wants to have four points but one thing about him, he’s going to bounce back,” DeRozan said. “Even if it’s not with points, it’s getting everybody involved … rebounding the ball, pushing the tempo and putting us in the right positions out there on the floor.”

One of Lowry’s three made baskets in last year’s Game 1 loss to Miami was an unlikely half court heave to force overtime. Long after Toronto lost that night, Lowry returned to the court alone to work on his shot, staying past midnight as cleaning crews collected garbage from the otherwise empty arena.

This year, Lowry passed on the extra practice, instead sounding defiant about his plan of attack for Tuesday’s Game 2.

“Put it this way: I guess I’m going to have to force shots,” he said. “My teammates want me to be more aggressive, so I’m going to have to force some more shots. Simple as that.”

Lowry and the Raptors have plenty of experience dealing with slow starts. Besides losing the first game in eight consecutive postseason series, Toronto led the league by overcoming deficits of 10-points or more 21 times this season.

DeRozan joked that Toronto is like a vintage car whose engine needs a little time to warm up before it starts humming.

“You ever have an old Regal that you’ve got to start up and sit there for a little while before you pull off for a little road trip?” he asked. “Once you get going, your car feels like a 2016 Lexus or something. That’s kind of our problem. It’s something we have to be better with.”

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