WASHINGTON (CP) – Kyle Lowry stood with his feet in a tub of ice in the visiting locker room at Verizon Center, the stat sheet floating in the water below.
He stared at the numbers in disbelief and despair. Even 30 minutes after the Raptors' 106-99 loss to the Washington Wizards in Game 3 of an Eastern Conference quarter-final series, Lowry struggled to comprehend what's gone wrong.
Toronto's star guard shot 5-for-22 and finished with just 15 points. He fought through an illness that left his voice hoarse and audibly wheezed during a post-game interview with reporters.
In the end, the effort was better for the Raptors. But the result was the same. And now Toronto is on the brink of elimination from the NBA playoffs, trailing the Wizards 3-0. No NBA team has overcome a 3-0 series deficit. Game 4 of the best-of-seven series is Sunday evening in Washington.
"In this situation, we've never been in it," Lowry said. "It's like a Game 7 for us every single game starting Sunday. We're down 0-3 and everyone knows the history of it."
Another fast start gave the Raptors hope they could creep back into the series, but a 10-point first-half lead vanished even before the two teams headed to their locker rooms at halftime.
Point guard John Wall finished with 19 points and 15 assists to lead Washington and forward Marcin Gortat added 24 points and 12 rebounds.
DeMar DeRozan led Toronto with 32 points – including 22 in the first half.
DeRozan carried Toronto in the first quarter with 20 points. But Lowry shot 2-for-9 in the first half and foul trouble continued to hound him. Lowry had six points at halftime and two fouls.
After exiting the ice tub, Lowry spent another five minutes sitting on his locker room stool, head in his hands. He refused to use his illness as an excuse.
"I thought Kyle played his heart out," Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. "Again, his shot didn't fall. That's basketball. He's our leader and he set the tone for us early. He played like the old Kyle – except his shot."
At one point in the third quarter Lowry had missed eight consecutive shots and DeRozan had missed 10 in a row.
The rest of the Raptors tried to make up the difference. Toronto took an 85-84 lead with 6:01 left in the fourth quarter after a dunk by Amir Johnson, who was one of the Raptors' few bright spots. He made 6-of-7 field goals and had a game-high 12 rebounds with three assists.
Toronto swept the regular-season series from the Wizards. The Raptors won in a blowout at Air Canada Centre on Nov. 7, 103-84, beat Washington in overtime on Jan. 31 at Verizon Center and won again, 95-93, at home on Feb. 11. DeRozan realizes, though, that this is a different time of year.
"Playoffs," DeRozan said. "Playoffs."
With Friday's game tied 88-88, Wizards reserve Otto Porter's breakthrough playoffs continued. With 4:20 to play, he sunk an open 3-pointer to put Washington back in front for good. Porter soon hit another.
"(Porter) has been the difference," Toronto reserve guard Greivis Vasquez said. "He is one of those players that is making his name in the playoffs."
Verizon Center finally exploded moments later when Raptors foil Paul Pierce made his own open 3-pointer to put the Wizards eight points clear with 1:58 left and put the game – and likely the series – out of reach.
"It's not over yet," Casey said. "We're on life support, but it's not over yet. There's no give up in this team. We haven't given up all year and we're going to continue to compete until someone tells us we can't compete any more."