Though the Toronto Raptors are closing in on a second straight Atlantic Division title, there’s no reason for them to start thinking about postseason, especially if their All-Star point guard remains out.
Looking to bounce back from a frustrating defeat, the Raptors aren’t sure if Kyle Lowry will miss a second consecutive contest Sunday against the visiting New York Knicks.
After winning back-to-back games for the first time in almost a month, Toronto (41-28) was thoroughly outplayed during Friday’s 108-92 loss at Chicago.
Though the Raptors have a 10 1/2-game division lead over Boston with 13 left, they’ve dropped 11 of 15 and still find themselves amid serious competition for one of the top 3 spots in the Eastern Conference.
Toronto might be in a good position to win consecutive division crowns for first time in franchise history, but veteran guard DeMar DeRozan wants to make sure his teammates don’t feel a sense of entitlement or take the final weeks of the regular season for granted.
"We didn’t win a championship last year, we haven’t done nothing to be in that position to feel that way or think that way," said DeRozan, who had a team-high 27 points Friday. "We’ve got to grow every single game and continue to get better. Understand how to win games night in and night out."
With Lowry (18.1 points, 6.9 assists per game) nursing a bruised back, Toronto shot 38.0 percent, was outscored 54-26 in the paint and allowed the Bulls to shoot 53.2 percent. The Raptors have yielded an average of 106.5 points in the last 12 games and 49.1 percent shooting in the last 10.
"After game like (Friday), we’ve just got to go home and take it out on New York," said DeRozan, who has averaged 24.5 points and shot 45.7 percent in 10 games this month.
Whether Lowry will be available remains to be seen. Toronto is 1-3 without him.
The Raptors leader dressed Friday, but felt he wasn’t healed from an injury suffered during Wednesday’s 105-100 home win over Minnesota.
”I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t go out there and play,” Lowry said Friday. ”I tried to go out there and warm up. It just didn’t happen.”
Lowry totaled 43 points and 20 assists as Toronto won the first two meetings against the lowly Knicks (14-55), but rested while the Raptors fell 103-98 at New York on Feb. 28.
Tim Hardaway Jr. scored 22 for the Knicks, but he could miss a fourth straight contest with a sprained wrist.
Teammate Alexey Shved, who scored 15 versus Toronto, has been one of New York’s few recent bright spots while averaging 22.0 points in the last three games. Averaging 15.1 points in 15 games since coming over from Houston last month, Shved went 8 of 14 from the field and hit seven 3-pointers to finish with a career-high 25 in Friday’s 97-81 loss at Philadelphia.
"He’s a pretty good shooter, has some good size and he’s comfortable handling the ball and can make some good decisions," coach Derek Fisher said.
With star Carmelo Anthony done for the season and injuries mounting, New York has averaged 88.6 points and shot 40.5 percent while going 2-9 this month.
"We’ve just got to keep these guys together and keep pushing them through," Fisher said.