It’s being called a game-time decision, but Toronto guard Kyle Lowry’s ability to play or not in Game 3 (7 p.m. ET, ESPN) against Cleveland Friday at Air Canada Centre might better be termed a series-defining moment.
The Raptors’ chances of climbing out of a 2-0 hole and prevailing against the NBA defending champions are slim enough if Lowry, their All-Star point guard, manages to play on his sprained left ankle. If he cannot, it’s hard to imagine Toronto winning even one game.
“It sucks,” said Lowry, who suffered the injury early in the third quarter of Game 2 Wednesday. He returned briefly but sat down for good having logged only 30 minutes in Cleveland’s blowout victory.
Lowry, who has been getting non-stop treatment, averaged 22.4 points during the season and hit 41.2 percent of his 3-pointers, offensive production the Raptors can’t afford to lose against the Cavaliers’ potent attack.
“I want to be out there 100 percent with my teammates, playing and trying to win games, protecting home court,” said Lowry, who did not practice Thursday or participate in shootaround Friday morning beyond talking with reporters. “I wish I could be out there with my teammates, that’s the goal. The goal is just to play. I have to wait.”
Lowry said this particular ankle sprain is on the inside, different from the many times he has rolled his ankle outwards. “I don’t’ think I’ve ever done it inwards like that so it’s a little bit different,” Lowry said.
“I have to be able to go out there and play defense, run up and down, make cuts. The making-cuts part will be the most difficult part. Going straight forward will be okay. The cuts, playing defense, the sudden reactions will be the tough part.”
Tougher still, though, would be sitting out entirely. Backups Cory Joseph and Delon Wright would pick up Lowry’s minutes, and it’s worth noting that Toronto went 14-7 when he was sidelined for 21 games after undergoing February wrist surgery.
But the Raptors can ill afford to lose his scoring now, with Cleveland locked in on containing backcourt mate DeMar DeRozan. DeRozan averaged 27.3 points in 2016-17 to rank fifth among scoring leaders but has been held to 19 and five points in the series’ first two games. Lowry scored 20 in both Game 1 and Game 2, making 14 of his 25 shots with 16 assists.
Toronto coach Dwane Casey said Lowry – who prides himself on his toughness when it comes to playing hurt – will have the most to say about his availability for Game 3.
“If a guy feels like he can go, he’ll go. But the doctors will have something to say about it too,” Casey said. “But most of all, it’s the player. The player knows his pain tolerance. If there’s no possibility of further injury, hurt it further, then I’m sure he’ll try to go.”