Raptors

Lowry Has the True Heart of a Champion

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If there’s one thing NBA fans have learned from the Toronto Raptors’ campaign to defend their title, it’s to never underestimate the heart of a champion. Their grittiness and unwillingness to go down without a fight was on full display Wednesday night. And no one showed this mentality better than their tried-and-true leader, Kyle Terrell Lowry. 

Led by Lowry’s 33 points (along with eight rebounds and six assists) in 54 minutes, the Raptors grinded out a 125-122, double OT win against the Boston Celtics in Game 6. It was, no doubt, the most exciting playoff game this season: a bounce-back victory by the defending champions, who were staring at the jaws of defeat following a miserable 22-point loss. But for Lowry’s legacy, it was more than just about forcing a Game 7. This game cemented him as the Greatest Raptor of All Time and erased the popular media myth that he doesn’t show up in the playoffs. 

Kyle’s Mentality

Kyle Lowry has a winner’s mentality—the type that you’d want your kid to have if they played basketball. Or any sport for that matter. 

It’s translated into enormous respect from not only Raptors fans, but also NBA players across the league. 

Just ask former Raptors teammate Terrence Ross.

Or ask Joel Embiid. 

Or JJ Redick, Kevin Love, CJ McCollum and DeMar DeRozan (don’t cry, Raptors fans).

The fact is that Lowry plays his heart out every game, leaving everything he has out on the floor. It’s a blessing when it comes to drawn-out, hard-fought playoff series against opponents like the Boston Celtics.

“We had to work hard for this win. For us, personally, that’s just what we do,” Lowry said post-game. “We go out there and play every possession as if it’s our last and find ways to pull out victories.”

Other than Lowry, three other Raptors (Fred VanVleet, OG Anunoby and Pascal Siakam) all logged over 50 minutes in Game 6. But it was Lowry—the only veteran player out of the four, whose leadership and playoff experience carried the Raptors in clutch time. Just like in Game 3. 

“That’s what great players do,” head coach Nick Nurse said postgame when asked about Kyle Lowry’s playmaking down the stretch. “He’s the ultimate competitor… [and] he’s not afraid of the moment.”

“He played great.”

Another true mark of a winner is humility, being able to acknowledge other people’s successes. Because as we know, basketball is a team game. Postgame, Lowry applauded Norman Powell’s performance.

“Coach rode with Norm, and Norm was huge tonight.” Lowry said. “Big, huge threes, and-ones, free throws and some good defense down the stretch. That’s playoff basketball.”

The NBA’s real “Playoff P” came back to life, scoring 23 points — including a key steal leading to a basket and foul in transition — in 38 minutes off the bench. 

“I was really focused on the defensive end tonight, trying to make an impact there and letting it spill into my offense,” Powell said postgame.

Through what has been a shaky bubble by Powell’s earlier-season standards, his confidence was never shaken.

“It’s nothing new, just taking those shots like I always take them,” Powell said. 

Besides Powell and Lowry, every Raptors player who played provided major contributions. Marc Gasol, after a dreadful Game 5 and a haircut, scored eight points (including two three pointers) as his confidence increased in the second half. Likewise, Serge Ibaka, whose status for Game 6 was up in the air until a few hours before game-time, poured in crucial points when shots weren’t falling for the rest of the team. Siakam didn’t contribute much offensively, but was a key piece on the defensive end in crunch time. VanVleet (21 points, nine rebounds, seven assists, two steals, two blocks) and Anunoby (13 points, 13 rebounds) were dominant on both sides of the ball. Even Matt Thomas instilled some energy into his teammates in his short time on the court.

The Raptors will need another all-around team performance to beat the Celtics in Game 7, but all eyes will be on Kyle Lowry, the consummate teammate and basketball player, to see the heart of a champion. 

Follow us on Twitter @RaptorsLead for the latest Raptors news and insight.

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About Sasha Podzorov

Sasha Podzorov is a journalism student at Stony Brook University where he broadcasts volleyball, soccer and lacrosse games. He is a huge basketball and soccer fan, and a Top Gear and Jeopardy enthusiast. Connect with him on Twitter @sasha_podzorov

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