Kawhi Leonard, Kyle Lowry Lead Raptors to Round 2 with Game 5 Rout of Magic

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistApril 24, 2019

TORONTO, ON - APRIL 23:  Kyle Lowry #7 of the Toronto Raptors dribbles the ball as D.J. Augustin #14 of the Orlando Magic defends during Game Five of the first round of the 2019 NBA Playoffs at Scotiabank Arena on April 23, 2019 in Toronto, Canada.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

The Toronto Raptors finished their Eastern Conference first-round playoff series victory over the Orlando Magic with a 115-96 win in Tuesday's Game 5 at Scotiabank Arena.

The seventh-seeded Magic stole the first game in Toronto, but the second-seeded Raptors resembled the NBA Finals contender they are with four straight wins to make quick work of the series.

Kawhi Leonard was brilliant as usual with 27 points and seven rebounds behind 8-of-11 shooting from the field and 5-of-5 shooting from deep. Kyle Lowry provided the early offense and finished with 14 points, nine assists and four rebounds, while Pascal Siakam added 24 points, six rebounds and four assists.

D.J. Augustin spearheaded the Magic's offensive effort with 15 points and four assists.

           

Kyle Lowry Primed to Change His Postseason Narrative

Lowry heard your jokes after he went scoreless in Game 1.

Lowry was the catalyst out of the gates in Tuesday's contest as the Raptors steamrolled the Magic and left little doubt they were headed to the second round. He looked nothing like the player who struggled in Orlando's sole win of this series, aggressively seeking out his shot and extending his arsenal beyond the arc.

He drilled his first five shots of the game, and his second triple pushed the advantage to 22-3 in the first quarter.

Lowry's defensive effort stood out as well, as he drew multiple charges and spearheaded the intensity on that end of the floor. The Raptors' perimeter players swarmed Orlando's shooters, holding the visitors to 9-of-34 (26.5 percent) from beyond the arc and stifling any legitimate comeback attempt.

It was quite different from the "here we go again" feeling surrounding Lowry after his Game 1 performance, as playoff struggles have been a constant theme throughout his career.

Toronto has made the playoffs six straight years and won more than 50 games four straight times but made the Eastern Conference Finals only once with Lowry and DeMar DeRozan as the go-to playmakers. Those teams lost in the first round more times—twice—than they advanced past the second round and were routinely embarrassed by LeBron James-led squads.

Lowry is in his seventh career postseason and has averaged more than 20 points only once. Even in the Eastern Conference Finals run in 2016, the Villanova product shot just 39.7 percent from the field and 30.4 percent from three-point range in 20 playoff games.

His career PER during the regular season is 18.4, but it drops to 15.7 in the playoffs, per Basketball Reference.

However, he is primed to change that narrative this year, as his performance during the first round suggests.

Not only did he come out as the tone-setter in Tuesday's elimination contest, he bounced back from his Game 1 debacle with 22 points in Game 2. It was an important sign he can quickly put poor showings behind him, which will critical against better competition in later rounds.

There is also less pressure on Lowry this season than in the past because of Toronto's roster construction.

He can play the role of facilitator with Leonard, who is perhaps the best two-way player in the league, and Siakam, who will likely be named the NBA's Most Improved Player this season. Those two are not only capable of carrying the offense for an entire series but can also defend the opponent's best players and allow Lowry to preserve some of his energy for offense.

In the past, the Raptors typically needed impressive outings from Lowry and DeRozan to advance.

Motivation also won't be an issue for Lowry in the second round against the Philadelphia 76ers. He's from the City of Brotherly Love and will have the opportunity to prove his mettle against Ben Simmons in a high-profile point guard showdown.

A motivated Lowry who is no longer playing under the pressure that comes with being the team's primary playmaker will continue to thrive with talent around him. He can fall back on the talented Leonard and Siakam, as well as playoff-tested veterans in Danny Green, Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol, when needed.

The result will be a deep playoff run and potential appearance in the NBA Finals, which will help Lowry change the postseason-choker narrative that has haunted him throughout much of his career.

            

What's Next?

The Raptors will face the 76ers in the second round beginning this weekend, while the Magic turn their attention to the upcoming offseason as they look to parlay their first playoff appearance since 2012 into an organizational stepping stone.

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