Moments that Mattered: Vintage Kyle Lowry
In a league known for its superstars, teams like the Toronto Raptors aren't supposed to beat teams like the Los Angeles Lakers.
If you scroll through the list of NBA champions you'll notice a trend: almost every champion has been led by a truly elite superstar. Their names litter the Basketball Hall of Fame: Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Bill Russell, and on and on.
Rare are the teams who do it with high-level depth and a handful of sub-superstar NBA stars. But don't tell that to Kyle Lowry and the Toronto Raptors.
In a game that featured arguably the greatest player of all time and one of the top 5 or so players currently in the game, it was the underappreciated Lowry who shined the brightest.
"He was vintage Kyle tonight," Raptors coach Nick Nurse said following Toronto's 107-92 victory over the Lakers. "He was scoring and flying around and taking charges and competing and getting us some critical buckets and keeping things ticking over, he was great."
Lowry showed Saturday night what those within the organization already know: Pascal Siakam might be the team's best player, but the Raptors are still Lowry's team.
Let's take a look at what made Lowry so special last night:
Play 1: Pull-ups
Lowry loves that above-the-break pull-up 3-point shot. He shoots 37% on above-the-break 3-pointers and 43% on pull-up 3-point jump shots this season. For comparison, James Harden shoots 36% on pull-up 3-point jump shots, Trae Young shoots 31%, and Damien Lillard shoots 39%, albeit with the latter two taking almost twice as many as Lowry.
Lowry's first shot of the game was classic Lowry. He grabbed a rebound, ran up the court and hit a pull-up 3-pointer right in Danny Green's face.
That shot is part of what has made the Raptors so deadly in transition this season as opposing teams have to stay up on Lowry while simultaneously sprinting back on defense.
Midway through the third quarter, he nailed another pull-up 3-pointer over the outstretched arm of Anthony Davis who he caught a few steps slow switching on the perimeter.
Play 2: Making Space
What the 6-foot Lowry lacks in height he makes up for in basketball IQ and his rather rotund posterior. The 34-year-old is brilliant at creating just enough space with his behind to finish at the rim against bigger defenders.
Last night, he did it against two of the best defenders in the NBA.
Here, he uses his rear to create enough space to drive by the 6-foot-9, 250-pound LeBron James.
Lowry is basically sitting on James' leg here.
Later in the game, he blew past Davis and used the rim to create enough space for the reverse layup.
Play 3: Charges Drawn
Lowry took over the NBA lead for charges drawn last night when he stepped in front of a driving Dion Waiters for his 31st charge of the season.
Lowry was on Green when the play started and knowing Waiters is a line-drive finisher, he stepped away from Green right in front of the driving Waiters to draw the foul.
Lowry and the Raptors will look to make it six straight victories when they return for their second seeding game against the Miami Heat at 1:30 p.m. ET on Monday.