Lowry Leads Historic Comeback
As Rondae Hollis-Jefferson slowly got dressed at his locker stall on Sunday evening, he looked over at the throng of reporters waiting for Kyle Lowry and he laughed. The Raptors’ small forward leaned back behind the curtain to that leads to the showers and yelled to his teammate that everyone was waiting for him.
Hollis-Jefferson sat down at his stall, took in what had just happened on the court and said the most Toronto-appropriate thing possible.
“What a time to be alive.”
It was that kind of day for the Raptors, who made history with their biggest-ever comeback win, erasing a 30-point deficit in the game’s final 15 minutes to stun the visiting Dallas Mavericks.
“It’s one of the craziest games I’ve ever been in,” Raptors centre Chris Boucher said, with his best performance of this season in his back pocket. He had a career-best 21 points, seven rebounds, and four blocks. His highlight of the night came off of a Lowry feed that let the big man hammer dunk over the Mavericks to take the lead with 25.8 seconds left.
Along with making franchise history, the Raptors provided the first 30-point comeback that the NBA had seen in 10 years plus a day. Sacramento did it to Chicago on Dec. 21, 2009.
These kinds of wins are always big, but this one came at the perfect time for a Raptors team that had been drowning in bad news this past week. Pascal Siakam, Marc Gasol and Norm Powell are all out indefinitely and missed their second games since the team made the announcement.
As the Raptors’ plummeting three-point percentage eventually intersected with the growing deficit on Sunday, you started to wonder if this was the short-term fate that awaited them. Missing three important pieces, a team like Dallas (19-10 and fifth in the West) should, in theory, be able to distance itself from a depleted team that was struggling to make a basket.
Maxi Kleber’s layup with 2:55 left in the third made it a 30-point Mavs advantage and the game had all of the required ingredients of the trailing team waving the white flag. The Raptors were in the first night of a back-to-back, with a post-game flight to Indianapolis looming. If head coach Nick Nurse had decided to sit his starters and try to play the fourth quarter in fast-forward, the decision wouldn’t have been questioned.
Instead, Nurse threw something different at the Mavs to start the fourth. He pressured the ball and trapped players all over the court. The stops and turnovers that had eluded them through three quarters started rolling in and the Raps started digging themselves out of that 30-point hole.
“I think I would say historically we have always been a team that fights,” Nurse said.
“That thought (giving up) barely came into my head there and I said, ‘We’re going to give it a go-to start the fourth.’
“The game is too long and there have been a lot of leads this year that have disappeared on people. We do it sometimes ourselves, it happens. So you might as well take a shot at it sometimes.”
It was Lowry, the man that everyone was waiting for in the post-game, who led that charge. He was unstoppable in the final frame, scoring 20 of his 32 there and connecting on 4-6 three-pointers.
“I didn’t do it,” Lowry said of the win.
“We had a great team effort and Malcolm (Miller), Terence (Davis Jr.), Rondae and Chris Boucher. I give them all the credit. They won that game for us. Malcolm got a few steals, TD hit some big threes, Chris with his deflections and shot blocks, Rondae with his putbacks and hustle and effort. Give those guys the credit, seriously.”
While the complementary pieces did all of that, the comeback wouldn’t have happened without Lowry’s veteran leadership. He was able to put a bad shooting game and a team-wide funk behind him when the fourth quarter started. He fired and fired away, leaned on his teammates when he needed to and pulled his team through what seemed like the impossible. As the Raptors fought to hold the lead, the sellout crowd at Scotiabank Arena chanted Lowry’s name.
“He was doing it all,” Nurse said. “I’m not sure I have seen anything like it.”
A vet of 873 games now, Sunday is one that Lowry might enjoy for a night, but will easily move on from. The lasting impact of the game might come for those younger players that spent the majority of the fourth quarter on the floor with Lowry.
Boucher, Hollis-Jefferson, Davis and Miller were the four non-starters that got in the game. They’ll be leaned on this way until Siakam, Gasol and Powell can eventually make their way back into the lineup. Pulling off the seemingly impossible isn’t possible every night, but Sunday was a big lesson for that group.
“It’s definitely a confidence booster,” said Miller, who had three steals and finished at plus-29. He played all but the final 97 seconds of the fourth quarter.
“To be so short handed and come back against a team being down, not even playing with a lead, but being down so much, it’s a confidence boost. The trust that we have for each other, the coach’s trust for the players, it’s all positivity.”
“When somebody gets hurt, we all know that we have to step up and it’s easier when you have somebody like Kyle that’s been there for years and always has a way to tell us what to do or what he needs from us. He was exceptional today,” Boucher said.
“We always knew he’d lead us some way, somehow and today he just showed everybody how he does it. For us, it was a way to follow the leader and do what we are capable of doing to help the team.”