Toronto Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry suffered a small fracture in his left thumb Friday in a 122-104 win against the New Orleans Pelicans, according to postgame comments from head coach Nick Nurse (h/t ESPN NBA reporter Andrew Lopez).
Lowry posted six points and five assists in 16 minutes before exiting.
The Raptors' chances of repeating as NBA champions basically evaporated the moment Kawhi Leonard signed with the Los Angeles Clippers. Lowry's presence, however, is one reason why Toronto can still challenge for a top-four seed in the Eastern Conference.
The five-time All-Star averaged 14.2 points and 8.7 assists while shooting 34.7 percent from three-point range last season. He was fifth among point guards in ESPN.com's real plus-minus (plus-4.65).
Lowry missed 17 games in 2018-19, but the Raptors still finished with the second-best record in the East. Having Leonard and Danny Green helped Toronto cope without its floor general.
Now, Leonard and Green are gone, making it more difficult for Nurse to adapt.
Lowry's injury will provide Fred VanVleet with an opportunity to run the Raptors offense on a more frequent basis. VanVleet averaged 11.0 points and 4.8 assists off the bench for Toronto a season ago, and he connected on a number of big shots in the playoffs. So far this season, VanVleet has averaged 15.6 points and 6.9 assists as Toronto's starting shooting guard.
Based on VanVleet's improvement, Nurse can at least have a little more confidence in the fourth-year guard until Lowry returns.