In the world of NBA mathematics, the Toronto Raptors are hoping that Serge Ibaka plus P.J. Tucker equals Kyle Lowry.
Not so much in ball-handling or scoring or on-court leadership, but the combined talents of the recently acquired forwards could be a bit of an antidote for the extended absence of the team’s all-star starting point guard.
Still reeling from the news Lowry will be lost for weeks after having surgery to clean up the inside of his right wrist, Toronto at least has a pair of veterans new to the rotation who should be able to alleviate some of the pressure on DeMar DeRozan, who will be handling much of the load in the next month or so.
“Serge and P.J. both have seen it all, done it all, they have a calming effect out there on the floor with the players,” coach Dwane Casey said. “They don’t have the ball out there and (aren’t) running the show as the point guard but they still have a good knowledge of what’s going on in the game.
“It goes to their intellect, they’re basketball IQ is high . . . it’s been great to have those guys fit in seamlessly.”
Trying to come to grips with Lowry’s absence is not going to be easy, regardless of the presence of Ibaka and Tucker and the extraordinary scoring exploits of DeRozan over the last three games.
It’s been shown over the years that teams might be able to survive in the short term without a star player but things eventually catch up with them, opponents figure out the new guys in expanded roles, the adrenaline of the moment wears off. Water seeks its level.
And that will be Toronto’s biggest test in the 23 games left in the regular season, or perhaps fewer if Lowry is able to get back to play in a couple after rehabbing from his surgery.
Ibaka and Tucker will grow into expanded roles and DeRozan will be DeRozan, but there will be nights when the Raptors will have to get by on guile and someone having a big game out of nowhere and, yes, some good fortune if they are to hang onto one of the top three spots in the Eastern Conference.
The schedule isn’t too arduous — once they get through a home-and-home set with the fourth-place Washington Wizards this week it eases a little bit — and they will have only two back-to-backs to deal with (none after March 16-17) and more games against non-playoff teams than those in the hunt.
They will have a fully healthy DeRozan to anchor the offence and their hope is he knows enough to rely on teammates to help.
“Hopefully he lets the game come to him and not subconsciously try to do more, we don’t want to wear him out, either,” Casey said. “We have to make sure we’re conscious of that and not wear him down or wear him out.
“He does have other players around him, Serge can score, we have other options that can score. P.J. can knock down a corner three, he shouldn’t feel the pressure of having to score on every possession.”
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