TORONTO – A bit incredible, Toronto Raptors are 15-6 when they play with only one of the two best players, Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Lowry, and – including the awkward 104-101 win over Atlanta Hawks – 16-6 when playing with both .
Does he tell us anything? Perhaps he says he only needs one star and a reliable supporting player to win in regular season games in the NBA. Maybe it says that the Raptors are a very deep, very good team that can find ways to win, regardless of the staff at hand. Perhaps he says that, when it comes to the potential of the top tandem in Toronto, we still have a lot to learn.
Unfortunately, for coach Nick Nurse, these learning opportunities were only a few and far between. The victory on Tuesday led to the completion of a one-month, 14-game game in which Leonard and Lowry did not play together. The twins have so far divided the floor only in the hairs over half of the 43 games in Toronto.
"I think it was not enough if you want my fair opinion," Nurse said in her team on Tuesday morning. "These are our two best players and we need two top players on the floor."
It must not be spoken. For all the beautiful stories that the raptors had this season, such as the appearance of Pascal Siacam, the quiet performance of Sergei Ibake, the energetic and effective return of Norman Powell and the versatile contributions of Danny Greene, this basketball team will either suffocate or advance in Leonardo's game and Lowry.
And early returns were encouraging. Through December 9, Leonard and Lowry played up to a plus of 10.7 net scores when they were on the ground together – which could be better – worse. She was at least up. After some early hiccups, it seemed that they were developing something.
Then they traded inactive substances for a month. Lowry with stubborn back injury, which proved to be much worse than expected, Leonard with intermittent overnight stays designed to relieve the physical deterioration. This was not a plan, especially after a training camp in which the nurse gave priority to two times. But when is the plan going?
"It's happiness. I'm not sure whether this is good or bad, "Nurse said recently. "It's really a coincidence. It's kind of a territory, especially for us this year. «
When a sister asks to praise Leonard or Lowry, she often shares opposite thoughts. He likes Lowry's pace, the way he accelerates the game. How it always puts pressure on the action, quickly brings the ball up and turns it faster than anyone else has done on the ground. He likes Leonard's strength to slow down the game. How to rotate a ball in the arms and make the world a quiet, precise scan and scan before anyone digs in front of him.
Perhaps this helps explain why the duo took some time to find chemistry during this season. It's not like the Raptors played badly when they shared the ground. But it was not exactly a ballet. Sometimes Lowry took responsibility and forced the case, so Leonard lost a bit about how he fit. In other areas, Leonard would have a ball and an isolated defender before him, while Lowry fell to the corner of the arc and waited for him. result.
"I think we want to see a few minutes together, more cohesion together," said Nurse. "It's easy if one of them is turned on and one of them is turned off. It becomes a little harder, in a good way, [when they share the floor.] The good problem is that you have two choices – who brings it, which does not bring it.
"I think we have some pace that we need to overcome a bit. I want our pace to be a little better when they are both on the floor. But it's more to me, or to us, that I have only a little more urgent to lift it to the ground and get a little faster. "
For example, take a game on Tuesday. Among the first offensive possession in Toronto, Lowry and Leonard seemed locked in an unselfish race. Leonard looked down and went down to Lowry. Lowry passed his gaze and handed it to Leonardo. Then back to Lowry. Then Leonardo. And then the hour of the clock expired.
Yeah, the first move of the duet in the month was not good. Lowry finished the first eight minutes without point or assist, while Leonard was mostly silent and confident in opening the game. When Lowry checked out, the Hawks were four.
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Their next spell together, in the middle of the second quarter, was slightly better than offensive, as Lowry found Leonard in a corner for three before Leonard developed a quick break, which led Lowry to put Ibaka on three of his own. But the Raptors' defense was porous and Atlanta got everything she wanted at the end of the raptors. Again, the Hawks won the minute Leonard-Lowry, this time with six.
When the couple shared together to start the other half, it seemed that things were heading in the same direction. But after a strenuous start, Leonard and Lowry exchanged and placed one after another, and then Siakam became involved in playing, which may be the most important development of all. By the time Lowry was invited back to his sloping, towel-wrapped dressing position on the pitch before the Raptors bench, Toronto finally won the Leonard-Lowry game, 19-13.
And they won in the last, the one that was most important, turned Hawks back to two, after Lowry checked that it remained seven minutes. Raptors never really looked good this night. But this was Leonard and Lowry when they looked the best – they pushed the speed, jumped past the bands for defense, forced traffic, created views for team-mates and victories.
This last part took place in 25 seconds when Leonard found his sixth nightstage and began to quickly break. When Leonard ran with John Collins on the side, Lowry set up a devastating, blind choice that Collins dropped to the ground and freed his teammate. From here, all five Raptors touched the ball consecutively, reaching the summit with the Ibaka Curtain and Toronto, which would not give up.
Maybe that's the best thing they've done all night. And he came in the most critical moment of the game.
This is important. While it's just January, and Raptors are still in the area that deals with figures, it's also in January, and Raptors should probably be discernible by now. The nurse needs to know how his team will respond at critical moments, so Leonard and Lowry will be on the floor. Players must know themselves. Their resistance should be tested.
According to the 26 recent Toronto matches, matches will be played against teams at or below 500, and Raptors will have only so many overnight stays to achieve this. You can take your late games over and over again on the playground, but it's impossible to repeat the pressure and intensity that you feel under the lights. In those moments when they fly round the circles, the ball will be in the hands of Leonardo or Lowry.
"It's probably the biggest thing that we need to be able to perform in a crunchy time, with this two guys out there," Nurse said. "We need to know where we are going, where it is going, where is going, what is being played, what special situations late in the games we are running. These are the things I will focus on. … that's huge. This becomes a really big factor when it comes to the ending. "
Playback time is approaching fast. And in the time before the ending, the raptors learn a lot.