Kyle Lowry returned to the Toronto Raptors lineup on Tuesday in a 121-110 loss against Jimmy Butler and the Miami Heat. Both teams have been pleasant surprises as they continue to exceed expectations with records of 15-5. Unlike the Heat though, the Raptors have done so without one of their star players.
It might come as quite the surprise then to learn that the Raptors have actually played better without Lowry in the lineup. In the 8 games that Lowry played before the Heat match-up, the Raptors' offense was 1.9 points per 100 possessions better than league average, and their defense was 4.9 points better than league average for a very respectable 7.1 net rating. In the 11 games without Lowry, their offense and defense have been 5.2 and 5.1 points better than league average for a fantastic 10.6 net rating.
Does this mean that the Raptors shouldn't play Lowry anymore? No, it doesn't. It's always important to remember that statistics only measure what has happened and not what will happen. Sure, they can be predictive, but they can never be 100% prescient, and a more intensive film and statistical study is necessary to truly explain this current outcome.
Regardless, Lowry's season averages of 21.8 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 6.5 assists (along with wily and stout defense) will help alleviate some pressure for the Raptors. Against the Heat though, their current trend of underperforming with Lowry has continued.