If a highlight reel were to be compiled for Kyle Lowry’s incredible season, his Game 5 performance against the Brooklyn Nets would make plenty of appearances.
In the Toronto Raptors’ 115-113 thriller of a victory, Lowry was sensational. Tying a career high, Lowry scored 36 points and dished six assists. He scored the first two points of the game to put the Raptors on the board, led them to a 26-point third-quarter lead and then bailed them out with a three-pointer to break a tie with a minute remaining.
“If we need an answer, we call Kyle,” Chuck Hayes said. “Kyle will figure it out.”
Having taken Toronto to the third seed in the Eastern Conference, the city has fallen head over heels for him. Emerging as the Raptors’ on-court leader, his teammates can only rave about his impact on their success.
“He’s our man,” Greivis Vasquez said. “He’s our guy. Unbelievable, man. I will go to war with him anytime at any day … He’s playing unreal basketball. Tonight he was our MVP. Thirty-six [points] in the playoffs? That’s not easy, man.”
Clinching the win wasn’t easy, either, despite Toronto leading throughout the first half and blowing the game open in the third.
Thanks to a 21-point first half from Lowry, and the team’s 34-point second quarter, the Raptors held a 62-44 advantage at the break. Struggling with third quarters in the first four games in the series, Toronto started out strong after halftime and built their lead up to 26 points despite getting lax on the defensive end of the floor. After Lowry narrowly missed a fling from beyond halfcourt to close the quarter, the Raptors were up 91-69.
Allowing the Nets to steadily chip away at its lead, Toronto found itself in danger zone when Brooklyn started hitting threes and getting to the free throw line in the fourth. With the Air Canada Centre crowd feeling nervous and the Nets looking comfortable/dangerous/whatever, the Raptors looked to Lowry to save the ship from sinking.
“When we needed a big shot, No. 7 came through,” Chuck Hayes said. “Kyle was unbelievable. There’s no more you can say. He’s doing it at the right time on the biggest stage.”
Sitting at the podium after a victory that could have just as easily been a loss, Lowry was thankful that the Raptors came out on top.
Nonchalant when speaking about himself, just as he has been all season long, Lowry was proud of the continued growth from his team.
“Our confidence is always going to be high,” Lowry said. “We got the third seed. We won games. We won tough games. We’re young, but we’ve got a group of guys that just want to play basketball and win games and care about each other. We just going out there having fun, playing basketball.”
Although Lowry had little to say about his own performance, DeRozan delighted in praising his teammate as he sat beside him.
“Since the day he came here, just [knew he was a] smart player,” DeRozan said. “Intense. He’s going to give it 110 percent every time he’s on the court. Honestly, he’s a hell of a player, man. The dog in him makes you want to bring your A-game every single night because you know he’s going to lay it out there. Every time he’s out there on the floor, I understand, I’m going to give my best effort because he’s going to do the same.”
Casey: “We Just Didn’t Play Smart”
Raptors head coach Dwane Casey was pleased with his point guard, but not in the mood to praise much of anything his team had done after their fourth-quarter collapse.
“He’s great,” Casey said. “He did a great job. He led us. But this game tonight, we’ve gotta learn from it. There’s so many learning experiences from tonight’s game: handling the lead, withstanding the prosperity. Embracing pressure, how about that one? We gotta do that from top to bottom. Kyle, [his] 36 points is huge for us.”
While Casey said he would keep his post-game message to the team “in-house,” it was clear he communicated to his players that giving up 44 points in any quarter was unacceptable.
“My emotions?” Casey said. “You wouldn’t want to hear it. We just didn’t play smart. They’re a very veteran team. They’re going to take advantage of mistakes that you make, and we wrote the book on the mistakes we made in the fourth quarter … They scored 44 points in the fourth and every mistake that you can think about, we made in the fourth quarter.”
With the team heading to Brooklyn to try to close out the series on Friday night, Casey knows an experienced Nets squad with its back against the wall will come out ready for a battle.
Amir Johnson summed up the lesson learned from Wednesday’s game in a way any Raptors fan could appreciate: “We’ve got to finish out games the smart way and not scare everybody.”