No NBA team has ever come back to win a playoff series after falling behind three games to nothing -- everyone knows that. The Toronto Raptors certainly didn't need reminding after a 106-99 loss to the Washington Wizards Friday night at Verizon Center.
Business was conducted at funereal volumes inside the visiting locker room. Trainers and staff shuffled around with their eyes trained on the carpet while players sighed and stared straight ahead.
At the locker closest to the showers, one Raptor slumped forward with his elbows on his knees, peering down at the bucket of ice water where he'd sunk his feet. On the surface floated a printout of the final box score.
That player cursing under his breath was Kyle Lowry. His stat line for the night read like so: 15 points, four rebounds and seven assists.
He'd finished Games 1 and 2 with seven and six points, respectively, so his performance might have constituted improvement over the last two contests if not for the fact that he'd attempted more than twice as many shots.
Tracking Lowry's field goal percentage over the series paints a much bleaker picture: 20% (2 of 10) in Game 1, 30% (3 of 10) in Game 2 and 23% (5 of 22) in Game 3.
For perspective, the All-Star guard finished the regular season with 17.8 points per game on 41% shooting. He'd averaged 15 attempts per game, not 22. And against the Wizards he'd been even more efficient, hitting 45% of 13 attempts per game.
Field-goal-percentage-itis wasn't just a Lowry problem. The Raptors as a whole took 23 more shots than the Wizards did Friday, yet finished with only one more made field goal.
Lowry's face, at least the parts of it visible behind his hands, showed how acutely he understood the futility of his 15 points.
He'd been sniffling and coughing off and on, prompting at least one Toronto reporter to opt out of the scrum in front of his locker (to paraphrase, everyone else could take their chances holding mics up to Lowry's face, but this guy would rather wait for the transcribed quotes than risk getting sick).
When asked whether the flu-like illness had affected his play, Lowry insisted it had not.
“It’s nothing to worry about, I know that. At the end of the day, I still have to go out there and play. And yeah, I don’t worry about [being] snake bit or whatever it is, because it's part of why we get paid to play.”
The guard didn't have as firm an answer when asked about the Raptors' struggles on offense.
“[Washington] did a good job of forcing us to take shots contested like they’ve been doing all series, but we got some open looks and we missed some shots. I had some open threes that I missed and DeMar [DeRozan] had some open looks, two-pointers, that he missed ... But yeah, our offense hasn’t been on the same [level] as it was earlier in the year."
He attributed at least some of Toronto's issues to inconsistency, especially in terms of pace. "You know, we’ll have a good quarter and a bad quarter and [the Wizards] have been finishing the halves out extremely well the last three games," he said. "We have to find a way to just keep it going, be consistent. Either we play fast or we play slow, one of the two. And just find a way to maintain it.”
Lowry acknowledged that his team had never been in a more difficult or stressful position than in this playoff series.
"We’re down zero to three and everyone knows the history of it, but we have to just take it one game at a time and at least try to get it back home.
"We’re still professionals and it’s not over. They still have to get another win," he said. "We just have to go out there and do our job and make it fun. If we’re going to go down, we have to go down having fun. Go down the way we know how to go down, playing hard."
By the looks of things, that's exactly where this series is headed.