1. Kyle Lowry
CLEVELAND — Make it six for the King of the 6ix.
Not long before the Raptors beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 115-109 on Thursday night, it was officially revealed that Kyle Lowry was an all-star for the sixth year in a row. He’s the first Raptor to make it six times, surpassing Vince Carter and Chris Bosh.
On a night that included a fan shoving him after he made one of his customary ‘winning’ plays by careening into the first row, Lowry showed why he’s a perennial all-star by dominating the game.
Lowry scored 23 points, including 14 in the third quarter, and added four steals. Serge Ibaka had 26 points and Norman Powell had 16 off the bench, including a late flush after a steal to seal it.
Kevin Love and Collin Sexton led the Cavs (13-36) with 23 points apiece. The Raptors improved to 34-14 with Nick Nurse and his coaching staff taking a step closer to being in Chicago with Lowry and Pascal Siakam at the all-star game.
But the Cavs weren’t done. Lowry can’t play all of the minutes, even if sometimes he comes close, and he was rested to start the fourth. Cleveland cut 10 points off Toronto’s lead while Lowry sat. He returned and keyed a 6-0 run, but the young Cavs showed some fight in battling back to within one.
Larry Nance Jr. had a big blocked shot on Siakam, followed by an alley-oop, to keep the Cavs close, but Ibaka tapped out a rebound, Lowry made a great save (and ran into the fan to do so, which was followed by the push) and Ibaka hit a three-pointer.
Still, the Cavs got into the paint and scored and then Siakam turned the ball over on an offensive foul, giving the Cavs a a chance to tie after Darius Garland was fouled on a drive to the basket. Garland missed his second free throw though, Powell hit a clutch three-pointer with a minute remaining, then came away with the steal and dunk after some spectacular team defence and the Raptors closed it out.
Lowry was involved in an infamous play in Oakland during the NBA Finals, when a fan shoved him and said some words to him. That fan, a Golden State Warriors minority owner, was banned for a year and fined. While this incident wasn’t nearly as severe, several Raptors were displeased by a repeat incident.
“You’re diving for a loose ball and a fan’s pushing you, it’s unbelievable man,” Lowry said. “Our fans, our NBA fans, shouldn’t be represented by people like him. It’s the second time it’s happened to me and it’s kind of getting crazy because next time it happens, I don’t know if I’ll be able to control myself. Hopefully, I will but … I couldn’t really react because I was in mid-play, but it will come up. Fans like that shouldn’t be in our buildings, in our arenas.”
An unfortunate incident, but it was only a small damper on Lowry’s night.
“I wouldn’t be (making another all-star team) without my teammates and my friends and these guys literally let me go out there and lead them and I love leading them, I love being teammates with them,” Lowry said.
“When you’re voted in by the coaches, it just shows the respect that they have for you and the things I do on the floor. We have the best coaches in the world in our league and it’s just awesome to say the coaches picked me.”
Would Lowry have ever imagined he’d become a multiple-time all-star when he got traded to Toronto from Houston at age 26?
“I don’t know. Probably not,” he said. “I always thought I was going to be good, but it was just opportunity, and once I got the opportunity I would take advantage of it and I did and it’s been a great run so far and I’m going to try and keep it going.”
Toronto has had 23 all-star selections in 25 seasons, including one each by Siakam (a starter this year), Kawhi Leonard (a starter last year) and Antonio Davis (an injury fill-in starter in 2001) … Lowry now has more all-star selections than Hall-of-Famers Pete Maravich, Reggie Miller, Sidney Moncrief, George McGinnis, Spencer Haywood, Bernard King, Artis Gilmore, Chris Mullin, Dennis Johnson, Dennis Rodman, Gail Goodrich, George Gervin and Bob McAdoo, amongst others.
Is that a Hall-of-Fame case for Lowry, bolstered by his NBA title? It sure seems like it.
Lowry said he isn’t aware of the names he is now in the company of and wasn’t about to look ahead. He did say, though, that he believes Fred VanVleet will be an all-star one day.
AROUND THE RIM
Players from seven different countries made the all-star teams, tying a record … This was Cavaliers centre and Brampton native Tristan Thompson’s 29th career regular-season game against the team he grew up watching, the Raptors (including his first career game in 2011). Thompson has also played three playoff series versus Toronto … With Marc Gasol out again because of his hamstring injury, Chris Boucher stepped in and was solid … Cavaliers coach John Beilein said before the game that both Lowry and VanVleet can be inspirations for his young guards — Garland and Collin Sexton. “These two guys are bulldogs,” Beilein said. “They work really hard, but (if) you can play, your size doesn’t dictate whether (or not) you can play in the NBA.”