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Kyle Lowry.

The Toronto Raptors must address their Kyle Lowry conundrum to improve their chances

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The Toronto Raptors progressed to the Eastern Conference semi-finals for the first time since 2001 with a first-round win over the Indiana Pacers, but if they are to get any further in the postseason they must solve a huge problem, his name is Kyle Lowry.

Despite making it through to round two, the Raptors didn't get much in terms of offence from their All-Star point guard and to say he has struggled in the playoffs so far would be a huge understatement.

Lowry came into the playoffs off the back of his best-ever individual season in the NBA averaging 21.2 points, 6.4 assists and, 4.7 rebounds per game and his inability to translate that form onto the biggest stage is damaging the Raptors' chances.

But those who have watched Lowry in playoff action in the last two years are not surprised and the numbers tell you why.

Playoff woes

Of the 204 players to have an All-Star appearance to their name since the 1979-80 season and have put up 250 or more field goal attempts, Lowry ranks 204th in field goal percentage, as per basketball-reference.com.

The 30-year-old is something of a rabbit caught in the headlights when it comes to the playoffs and that's bad news for the Raptors, especially after the historic campaign they've just had.

Indiana Pacers v Toronto Raptors - Game Seven

After a first-round exit in the last two years and criticism aimed at Lowry, one of the team's leading players, he took it upon himself to put in extra work last summer to get in shape and put him and the team in the best position to overcome their playoff woes.

After an amazing year, in which he and DeMar DeRozan were hailed around the league as the second best backcourt behind Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, it seemed now was the time for Lowry and the Raptors to finally make their mark where it mattered. In the point guard's case, though, we're still waiting.

Toronto dropped the first game in their second-round series against the Miami Heat last night, despite an amazing heave from beyond half-court by Lowry which sent the game into overtime at the buzzer.

It was an incredible shot which sent the Air Canada Centre into raptures and looked like it was the moment for Lowry to turn things around after another poor display.

Miami Heat v Toronto Raptors - Game One

Once again, though, it didn't materialise as the Heat won the game in overtime thanks to an inspired performance by Dwyane Wade who, after the Raptors guard's big shot, showed real mental toughness to lead his team to a win in a hostile environment, something the Toronto point guard is lacking in abundance at the moment.

The shot by the two-time All-Star may have been the highlight play of the game but as he succinctly put in after the encounter: "It didn't mean anything. We lost the game."

Per ESPN, during the regular season, Lowry averaged 21.2 points per game on 42.7 percent shooting, including a career-high 38.8 percent from 3-point range. In the playoffs, however, he has averaged 13.0 points and shot 8-for-50 (16 percent) from beyond the arc.

Against Miami, Lowry went 3-for-13 from the field and 1-for-7 from 3-point range. He's currently shooting 30.6 percent in the playoffs, the worst postseason percentage by any NBA player in the past 50 years (minimum 100 attempts total), according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Miami Heat v Toronto Raptors - Game One

So what makes Lowry struggle so much in the playoffs?

Confidence

After the game one loss last night, Lowry was filmed on the court at the Air Canada Centre putting up shots on his own and stayed at the empty arena beyond midnight.

There were no coaches, teammates, family or friends, it was just Lowry on the court trying to figure things out for himself.

His confidence is shattered at the moment and it is affecting him mentally more than anything and the Raptors are suffering as a result. They need the real Kyle Lowry back, without him they can prepare for their offseason now and kiss goodbye to any hopes of making the Eastern Conference finals for the first time.

Lowry admitted post-game that he was not keen on shooting the ball so much and passed up on shots he would normally take without hesitation because of his poor percentage.

Indiana Pacers v Toronto Raptors - Game One

“I passed up a lot of shots tonight. I passed up a lot, a ton of shots, actually,” he said. “With the poor shooting, I think that’s what it did to me a little bit more tonight.

“I think I passed up some shots, for sure.”

You would think a player of Lowry's calibre would've overcome the slump and returned to his best by now, but eight games in there are no clear signs of it disappearing.

The Villanova product is his own biggest critic and doesn't need to be told when he's playing badly, he puts more pressure on himself than anybody else and is determined to come through this difficult period and prove people wrong.

He has been questioned in the last few years for disappearing in the playoffs and not being able to handle the pressure of the moment but there isn't a player who wants to succeed on this stage more than him.

"I have [been in a slump like this], but not at this time, so that's what's frustrating," Lowry said. "In the playoffs, all eyes are on you. It sucks to be playing this bad with all eyes on me. I know I'm better than this, so I have to pick this s--- up."

All eyes will be on point guard again on Thursday for game two in a vital game for the Raptors to avoid going to Miami down 2-0. It could well be the biggest game of Lowry's career.

Topics:
NBA
DeMar DeRozan
Toronto Raptors
Atlantic Division
Eastern Conference
Kyle Lowry

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