When Kyle Lowry checked out of the Toronto Raptors’ game on Sunday five minutes into the first quarter, it seemed strange. The Raptors’ rotation had been locked for months: Lowry would play the entire first quarter, and then sit out the first six or so minutes of the second quarter. That pattern generally repeated itself in the second half, sometimes with a shorter rest. This change seemed sudden, and without an obvious reason.

Raptors fans can expect the star point guard, the team’s most important player, to continue to come out at unexpected times. He has a series of ailments, including a groin issue, that require a lighter workload for the moment. The rest might not be so extreme — Lowry played just 27 minutes against the Atlanta Hawks — but he likely will not reach the high 30s again until the post-season, or close to it.

Lowry has been playing nearly 37 minutes per game; it seems likely that he will be closer to 30 for a little while. The extra time on the bench should not affect the Raptors’ defence, which has been steady with or without Lowry, but the offence has been much better with Lowry playing. The Raptors score 1.11 points per possession with Lowry on the floor, and just 1.01 with him on the bench, according to the website NBAwowy.com. That is the difference between being one of the best offensive teams in the league and falling in the bottom third.