Toronto Raptors: Kyle Lowry makes his case for early MVP
Okay, I know it’s very early… but Kyle Lowry took control, when the Toronto Raptors needed it most.
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They needed it Wednesday night – badly. The Raptors were without big men Jonas Valanciunas and Amir Johnson on the second night of a back-to-back in Boston, so up stepped Tyler Hansbrough and Patrick Patterson to fill the void. Their help would be needed most on the defensive side of the ball where now, they stood to be very over-sized and outmatched by Boston’s Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk (below right).
After one quarter– which felt like the worst quarter ever– the score was 35-23 to the Celtics. It wasn’t that the Raptors played that badly… 23 points is a respectable score for 12 minutes. However, Boston shot a ridiculous 79 percent from the field in the quarter– it was like they couldn’t miss for the first ten minutes. As a result, Toronto fell behind by 16 points.
Nov 5, 2014; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics center Kelly Olynyk (41) grabs the rebound against Toronto Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan (10) in the second half at TD Garden. The Toronto Raptors defeated the Boston Celtics 110-107. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
Having said that, it never felt like the game was getting away from the Raptors… kind of like the game the previous night versus the Thunder. This feeling was reinforced by TSN commentator Matt Devlin, who announced that he believed the Raptors would eventually pull off the win, which seemed like a ridiculous insinuation when down by twelve after one quarter. Jack Armstrong, likely more of a realist, laughed off the suggestion in his Boston accent (which has to be coincidence).
Lorwy was somehow not named an All-Star last year. Conspiracy theorists have claimed the Americans (or just the NBA) decided they would give one All-Star to Toronto (Demar DeRozan) and that would be plenty.
After the Celtics opened up a 27-11 lead eight minutes into the game, the Raptors– partly due to Lowry’s nine points– climbed back with a 15-0 run late in the second quarter and were within one shot of the Celts at halftime. Devlin was very relieved by this time and stated he knew they’d be okay.
The Raptors finally took the lead in the third quarter, and while they did not sustain the blistering second quarter pace, still poured it on and held the lead into the fourth. Lowry made 14 points in the quarter.
Play of the game– clearly– was with 40 seconds to go. The Celtics came back to tie it up, and were going for the lead. Lowry was defending the ball and he stripped Marcus Smart (one of Boston’s 28 turnovers), tipped the ball ahead and started the fast break. Instead of taking it all the way to the hole and putting it up himself– as most players do as reward for the steal– Lowry took it down, then pulled it back at the restricted area. There he found a trailing DeRozan (pictured below) who took the pass and threw down a thundering slam plus the foul. This dunk was of the variety to make everyone watching stand up and or scream “Ohhhhh!”
Nov 5, 2014; Boston, MA, USA; Toronto Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan (10) drives the ball against Boston Celtics forward Jeff Green (8) at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
Rajon Rondo (who had a triple-double) made a pair of free throws for Boston to tie the game, but before overtime, the Raptors had a chance to ice it. Lowry had the ball, like he commanded all night. With 8 seconds to go, he accepted a brief pick, went to the left side of the key and calmly stepped backed, faded away and released the shot (featured picture). The result was never in doubt– all net.
While Klay Thompson of the Golden State Warriors may have something to say, this performance gives Lowry early MVP consideration. He was 12 of 17 from the floor in the game for 35 points, including 9 of 10 from the free throw line, as well as four assists, and four rebounds.
Now the 4-1 Raptors open up a big homestand, kicking off with Washington, a formidable Eastern Conference foe, on Friday night. Coach Dwane Casey expects to have Johnson back playing, while no one is certain about Valanciunas. (Although he did travel with the team to Boston and X-rays were negative… two good indications).