An Olympics To Remember

Holly MacKenzie - Raptors.com

A little more than a month after kicking off training with the U.S. national team, Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan were standing on the podium in Rio, gold medals in hand. Electing to swap out offseason downtime with suiting up to represent their country, the duo had a month of basketball, bonding with fellow U.S. teammates, and an up-close view of the summer games. With a dominant 96-66 victory over Serbia in the gold medal game on Sunday afternoon, they also got to add Olympic gold medallist to their respective CVs.

In Sunday’s victory, DeRozan scored six points to go with two rebounds, two assists, and a blocked shot in 11 minutes of play. He shot 3-for-4 from the floor. Lowry played nearly 22 minutes, finishing with five points, five rebounds, five assists and two steals. The U.S. was a +21 when he was on the floor.

After getting off to a slow start, the U.S. trailed 13-11 when Lowry checked into the game. DeRozan joined him shortly after, and the Raptors backcourt, along with Paul George, Kevin Durant and DeMarcus Cousins helped the U.S. find its rhythm.  The United States would go on a 14-2 run to take control of the game and rolled toward the victory behind a 30-point effort from Kevin Durant and improved defensive intensity paired with offensive focus.

For a U.S. team being so deep on the perimeter, DeRozan’s role was mainly to provide scoring off the bench when needed. On Sunday, he was inserted into the game when Jimmy Butler had to go to the bench to be tended to by a team trainer. DeRozan filled in admirably on both ends of the floor and helped to kickstart the U.S. ball movement with a lovely pass to DeMarcus Cousins for an easy basket. Since Lowry and Kyrie Irving were the only point guards on the roster, Lowry often wound up coming in to settle things down on the offensive end and ramp them up defensively.  His hustle and defence were huge for a U.S. team that had to fight harder than it had become accustomed to in the preliminary round of the tournament.

Spain (along with familiar face/former Raptor Jose Calderon) joined the U.S. and Serbia on the podium, collecting bronze medals after defeating Australia in a thrilling 89-88 contest, while Serbia picked up silver. Jonas Valanciunas’ Olympics journey came to an end earlier in the week when Lithuania suffered a 90-64 loss to Australia in the quarterfinals. In six games, Valanciunas averaged 6.7 points, seven rebounds, and a blocked shot in just under 24 minutes per contest.

Teammates Delon Wright and Norman Powell were extremely vocal in support of their Raptors vets, posting shout outs on Instagram after the medal ceremony. For the two coming off their rookie season in the league, DeRozan and Lowry were the veterans who helped them learn the ropes of being in the NBA.

The Olympics capped off what was a magical year for Toronto’s leaders. After being named as All-Stars for the first All-Star game to be held in Toronto, the backcourt besties led the team to their best regular season finish, and then onto the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time in franchise history before falling to the eventual NBA Champion Cleveland Cavaliers in six games. DeRozan immediately re-signed with Toronto in free agency and then he and Lowry were reunited to Las Vegas to begin their experience with their national team. 

With the Olympics coming to a close, Valanciunas, Lowry and DeRozan will each have a few weeks to regroup before heading to Toronto for training camp. However they choose to spend their final days of summer will be both hard earned and well deserved.