The Toronto Raptors 5-game win streak was snapped on Sunday evening at the Scotiabank Arena in a 114-109 loss to the Miami Heat.
The result was undoubtedly important as the Raptors jockey for playoff positioning in the Eastern Conference, but the biggest story of the night had little to do with the final scoreline.
For the first time since leaving the Raptors for Miami last offseason, the consensus greatest Raptor of all-time, Kyle Lowry returned to the city that he called home for nine seasons. Lowry made his long-awaited return in front of a sold-out Toronto crowd, and the energy in the building was special.
The player introductions started like any other night, with in-house announcer Herbie Kuhn introducing the visitors with a dis-interested monotone delivery. The first four Heat starters were announced, and then the lights went off, making way for a full on-court reflective tribute. With his two sons seated beside him, Lowry watched the powerful, elongated video montage from the bench, cracking a few smiles and enjoying every nostalgic moment that flashed on screen. At the conclusion of the tribute, Lowry and his sons walked to centre court and saluted the Raptors faithful that at this point was standing and cheering in unison.
It was a day that Raptor fans had been patiently waiting for, and the buzz around the entire city was undeniable. Mayor John Tory even labeled April 3rd as ‘Kyle Lowry Day’ to show appreciation for the greatest to ever put on a Raptors uniform. On the court, Lowry’s numbers speak for themselves: first in franchise history in assists, steals, three-pointers and triple-doubles. Lowry was the most important player on the court for the Raptors for almost the entirety of his 9-year tenure, and finally got his championship in 2019. Off the court, Lowry was one of the few players who truly embraced the city and team, always representing Toronto to the best of his ability and leaving on good terms when both parties agreed it was right to move on. Lowry’s already stated that he will retire as a Toronto Raptor, whether it be through a 1-day contract before retirement or by means of a proper return. What was certain after Sunday is that Lowry will forever be cemented as one of the greatest Toronto sporting figures of all time.
Believe it or not, there was still a basketball game to be played at Scotiabank Arena after the theatrics concluded. The Raptors started off hot, opening up a 34-28 lead after the first and extending the cushion to 10 heading into halftime. The second half was a different story though as the first place Heat finally started to heat up (shameful pun-intended). The Raptors defence remained stingy, but Miami was able to make tough shot after tough shot, especially from deep where they would go an incredible 18/38 on the night. Miami’s red-hot shooting continued into the fourth and the Raptors were unable to keep pace, remaining close but eventually falling 114-109.
Lowry’s prodigy Fred VanVleet lead the Raptors in the loss, scoring 29 with 7 assists. Pascal Siakam matched him with 29 of his own along with 8 rebounds. Scottie Barnes and Gary Trent Jr. finished with 19 points apiece, with Barnes coming 3 boards shy of a double-double. Outside of those main four players it was a quiet offensive night for Toronto, who only managed 13 points from their bench.
The Lowry return wasn’t just a feel-good story; he put on a great performance as well, scoring 16 points on just 8 shots with 10 assists for a classic KLow double-double. Max Strus led the team in scoring with 23 points that included some big-time shots down the stretch. Bam Adebayo had an impressive 16 & 9, while Tyler Herro and Victor Oladipo won the game for Miami off the bench, scoring 18 and 21 points respectively.
The loss stings for the Raptors, dropping them to sixth in the standings. Still though, the important thing is to remain in the top 6, and Toronto are 2.5 games ahead of seventh place Cleveland with only four games to play. They’re still in a great position to automatically qualify and avoid the play-in tournament.
Both the Raptors and Heat will be back in action on Tuesday as Toronto host the Hawks while Miami returns home to face the Hornets.
VanVleet – 29 PTS 2 REB 7 AST
Siakam – 29 PTS 8 REB 5 AST
Barnes – 19 PTS 7 REB 2 AST
Lowry – 16 PTS 6 REB 10 AST
Strus – 23 PTS 3 REB 1 AST
Herro – 18 PTS 8 REB 9 AST