Exclusive feature by Arjun Ram for On Point Basketball
After months of anticipation, Kyle Lowry will make his return to Scotiabank Arena — in South Beach style.
It’s been around nine months since the point guard was traded from the Raptors to the Miami Heat, bid goodbye to a franchise he played with for nine seasons. During that time, Lowry and the Raptors endured playoff heartbreaks and significant celebrations, reaching its pinnacle with their 2019 Finals win against the Golden State Warriors.
But in Scotiabank Arena – or previously known as Air Canada Centre – Lowry shared numerous fan-favourite, memorable moments, contributing to a winning culture that continues to persist amongst players and fans.
So, to commemorate his return, here are his top seven moments playing in front of the home crowd.
#7: All-Star Lowry (February 14, 2016)
In 2016, for the second straight year, Lowry was named an all-star starter for the Eastern Conference, garnering an increase of acclaim from fans around the league.
Receiving the second most votes at the guard position, he would play alongside players like LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. But what distinguished this accomplishment from the year that preceded was his opportunity to represent the home crowd.
The all-star game was held in Toronto, and with the team positioning themselves as a top-5 seed in the East at the time, the city had a lot to look forward to.
As he was introduced by Toronto-born rapper Drake, he was the recipient of immense applause. In 29 minutes, Lowry scored 14 points and impressively dished out 10 assists.
Playing with his fellow competitors, Lowry shined brightly amongst a familiar crowd.
#6: Lowry sets franchise record for assists (January 28, 2020)
Lowry’s a team first guy, making the right passes at the right times.
It was against the Atlanta Hawks on January 28th, 2020, where he would pass former Raptor Jose Calderon for the all-time franchise record in assists. A half court pass to former Raptor Terrence Davis Jr. sealed the deal, as Lowry smiled in recognition of the feat, but immediately drew his attention to the defensive end afterwards.
The Raptors pulled off the win, with Lowry marking 11 assists. After the game, he said it was “awesome to be able to get it [the record] here tonight, in front of the home crowd…”
It’s just one of the many franchise records Lowry holds, leading in three-pointers made, steals, triple-doubles, and other offensive and defensive categories.
#5: A half-court miracle (May 3, 2016)
Yes, the Toronto Raptors would end up losing game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Miami Heat. But a half court heave from Lowry to tie the game and send it to overtime cannot be forgotten.
With 3.3 seconds to go, the Raptors were down 90-87 against a Dwyane Wade-led Heat Team. Lowry — who had been uncharacteristically cold from three all throughout the playoffs — received an inbound pass from former Raptor Cory Joseph.
At first, it looked like he stumbled, as the ball drifted towards out of bounds. A quick save saw Lowry hoisting a high arcing shot with a couple of seconds left. The going off of the buzzer, signifying regulation was over, was soon interrupted with a crowd eruption, as Lowry’s emotion shifted from desperation to relief.
The shot went in, meaning the guys would play an extra five minutes.
Here’s the hard part to digest: a presumed momentum switch was quickly rebuffed. The Raptors would lose 102-96 in OT, failing to even score a bucket in the first 3:46 seconds of the period.
But the way I look at it, Lowry’s Hail Mary engulfed him with confidence — that he could make those shots. Not ones from that deep, but the clutch, pivotal buckets to seal the deal. Eventually, he would score 35 in game 7 against the Heat and pull off the win — sending the team to their first Conference Finals.
#4: Career high against the Cavaliers (February 28th, 2016)
An Eastern Conference matchup saw the Raptors taking on a LeBron James led Cleveland Cavaliers on February 28th, 2016. The two teams were neck in neck for the top standing in the Conference, with Cleveland maintaining the spot ahead of the game.
A lackluster performance from former Raptors all-star DeMar DeRozan was overshadowed by an exceptional game from Lowry. With all the pressure to take a game against the defending Eastern champions, Lowry scored a career-high 43 points, along with nine assists and four rebounds.
He set the tone early, hitting difficult shots and a few threes. Although down by ten at halftime, the Raptors, with the help of a masterclass second half from him, made a comeback in the fourth quarter.
With less than a minute left, Lowry tied his career-high 41 points playing some bully-ball against Matthew Dellavedova for an interior two.
But he wasn’t done just yet.
His magical night culminated in style. Tied at 97 a piece, Lowry stepped back for an elusive two pointer over Dellavedova, scoring his 43rd point and cementing the win.
As he jogged back to the bench, DeRozan embraced his best friend, reminding him that he was that bad man.
Kyle Lowry (Courtesy Charlie Stanislaw)
#3: Dallas Mavericks comeback (December 22, 2019)
If there’s a game that encapsulates Lowry’s attitude as a player, it’s this one.
Down by as much as 30 against the Mavericks with less than three minutes left in the third, the game seemed about done for the Raptors. And with Nick Nurse having to play an undermanned team, it was on to the next.
In the fourth quarter however, it was like a flame was ignited within the Raptor lineup, revitalizing their defense and suffocating the Mavericks’ offence. And with Chris Boucher chiming in a then 21-point career-high and former scrappy Raptor Rondae Hollis-Jefferson scoring 18, the game was neck and neck.
But above all the components to the Raptors’ comeback, it was Lowry’s performance that completely overturned the momentum. He made four of the Raptors’ six three-pointers in the fourth, contributing to his 20-point quarter.
Finishing the game with 32, his tenacious play led to a few go-ahead buckets late, and a clutch assist to Boucher for an authoritative slam.
Drawing cheers from the crowd, he showed his grit and persistence, aiding the Raptors in overcoming an imposing deficit and completing the franchise’s largest comeback.
#2: An inspiring game 7 loss (May 4, 2014)
I can only imagine the emotions of losing a winner-take-all exhibition in front of a home crowd. The feeling of knowing you were so close, yet couldn’t close it off
The final seconds of the Raptors-Nets playoff series in 2014 were stressful. As the two teams squared off in a game 7 at the ACC, the Nets’ lead grew shorter and shorter as time progressed.
A clutch play from former Raptor Terrence Ross on the defensive end saw the Raptors earning the final possession of the game.
It was 104-103, Nets. The inbound pass went to Lowry, with 6.2 seconds to send the lone team in Canada to the second round. Navigating his way through a double and brief triple team, he found some room to throw up a floater for the win.
Before he could fully extend his arm, he was blocked by then Nets star Paul Pierce, as the crowd stood in shock. Lowry fell to the hardwood, holding his hands on his face, stunned.
This moment was integral for his career in Toronto. Back then, he and the organization were still crafting a winning culture, hoping it could one day reach an extensive level. And in the years that followed, Lowry worked on his game, resigning with the team and eventually winning a championship.
Without the adversities, who knows if he would have possessed the hunger to win. But that’s all in the past, and we got our revenge against Brooklyn in the NBA bubble, sweeping them in the first round.
#1: Game 6 cheers (May 25, 2019)
The 2019 Eastern Conference Finals between the Milwaukee Bucks and the Toronto Raptors was an uneasy series. The Bucks took the first two, and the Raptors came storming back, winning three straight.
It culminated with a game 6 that, for the most of the competition, featured the Bucks dominating the Raptors. But Toronto fought back, feeding off the energy of the home crowd and neutralizing a versatile Bucks offence to punch a ticket to the NBA Finals — their first appearance in franchise history.
History had been made, and to put it perfectly, it was Raptors commentator Matt Devlin saying, “24 seasons in the making. The Toronto Raptors are headed to their first NBA Finals.”
But what stood out was the reception Lowry would receive during the presenting of the Conference Finals trophy. He had been there from the very start, through all of the tribes and tribulations. The crowd passionately chanted his name, but Lowry remained poised, looking at the road ahead.
“We’re not satisfied though,” he said. “This is not our end goal.”
It was rewarding, and deserving for a player of his caliber. And after capturing the Larry O’Brien, Lowry added to his already illustrious career as a Raptor
While he may be gone, bearing number seven for another team, Toronto will forever be his home away from home. North Philly’s finest will always be ours.
Kyle Lowry (Courtesy Charlie Stanislaw)