It is a great time to be a Raptor fan right now. Sure, there’s the defeatist mentality that still looms over like a dark cloud, with two consecutive years of first round exits fresh in everyone’s mind. Whatever optimism that exists can be placed onto the Raptor’s MVP, and indeed a candidate for “second best player after Steph Curry.” That man, of course, being the unstoppable Kyle Lowry. Most notable has been his work with the bench unit of Joseph, Ross, Patterson, and Biyombo.
<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” data-lang=”en”><p lang=”und” dir=”ltr”><a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/TerrenceRoss?src=hash”>#TerrenceRoss</a> <br>(h/t <a href=”https://twitter.com/DexterC73″>@DexterC73</a> ) <a href=”https://t.co/ojXTlyOJRr”>pic.twitter.com/ojXTlyOJRr</a></p>— BBALLBREAKDOWN (@bballbreakdown) <a href=”https://twitter.com/bballbreakdown/status/702989589988798465″>February 25, 2016</a></blockquote>
The caveat, as it always is with bench units, is that it is coming against the opposition’s bench as well. The theory is that when the lineups get smaller come playoffs, that advantage will no longer be present. However, if you look at the past 5 games, you can see that the league is now adjusting by playing starters, and the Raptors are still coming out ahead. Let’s take a look at the past 5 games
February 26th, 2015 vs Cavaliers
In the franchise-rocking game against the Cavaliers, the Lowry+Bench name was deployed for the second half of the third quarter. If you look up at the Cavalier’s roster during that time, who else do you see but the King himself. Even against Lebron and fellow starter Tristan Thompson, the Raptors held a 4 point advantage during that time span. Also notable is the time spent with Derozan instead of Ross at the beginning of the fourth quarter, when the Raptors were a +12.
The previous two games before that were similar. While the Timberwolves were more traditional by only playing starter Gorgui Dieng and managing to break even during those times, the Knicks adjusted by playing Carmelo. The last game to look at is against Memphis, which points strongly to how opposing coaches are adjusting to the Raptors.
At the beginning of the Second Quarter, when the Lowry+Bench unit was in, the Raptors were a collective +4. Dave Joeger obviously wasn’t happy with that, as to counteract them in the fourth quarter, he counteracted the move by playing his best player – Mike Conley – the entirety of the time. This isn’t normal behavior for him.
This snapshot, from the most recent game against the Suns, demonstrates the Grizzlie’s preferred approach of resting Conley at the beginning of the 4th quarter. From this point on, there is no use in diminishing the stength of Kyle Lowry with the bench. They are already proving their mettle against All-Stars.