If shattering bench scoring records is an indication that the Raptors second unit is equipped to handle the Celtics in a best-of-7 series without their All-Star point guard then Toronto shouldn’t have anything to worry about.
Still, watching Kyle Lowry limp off the floor in the first quarter of Sunday’s 150-122 win over the Nets – which completed a sweep (first in franchise history) and earned them a date with the Celtics in the Eastern Conference semifinals – was tough to watch. Despite receiving national praise for setting a new NBA record for most points scored by a second-unit (100), the Raptors received word Monday that Lowry has been diagnosed with a left ankle sprain after he underwent an MRI Sunday night in Orlando.
No timetable has been set for Lowry’s return, the team announced. Updates will be available as appropriate, according to the Raptors.
“You certainly want your best players out there – without question,” head coach Nick Nurse said after the game. “But sometimes you don’t have much choice. That’s something we’ve become accustomed to in this league. You have to go out there with who is healthy and who is available.
“You have to think there’s a good chance you can figure out a way to win. That’s what we’ll do either way.”
Lowry hasn’t been officially ruled out for Game 1 of their best-of-7 series, the pain he’s feeling between now and Thursday night should ultimately dictate his status. Lowry averaged 19.4 points, 7.5 assists, and 5 rebounds a night for the Raptors this season.
The Raptors were 12-2 in games without Lowry this season, but don’t let that record fool you into thinking Toronto is better off without its leader.
“It would hurt us a lot,” Nurse said Sunday. “All I can say is, you guys, know how big a cog he is to this whole thing. He’s our most experienced, toughest leader we got.”
Lowry, as always, also has a chip on his shoulder. Not many people believed the Raptors would sit atop of the Eastern Conference’s upper echelon all-season long but that’s precisely happened throughout the course of the 2019-2020 NBA campaign.
Most people slept on the defending champs, citing the loss of Kawhi Leonard along with the uncertainty that Lowry was enough to lead alongside Pascal Siakam, Serge Ibaka, and Fred VanVleet. The Bucks, Celtics, and Sixers garnered much more attention, most picked either Milwaukee, Boston, or Philly over the reigning champs.
Instead, the Raptors spent most of the season chasing down the Bucks for first place and finished only two-and-a-half games back.
2020 NBA Coach of the Year
Coach Nurse, who was recently named this season’s NBA Coach of the Year, added another trophy to go next to his 2019 title and is hoping to add a third before leaving Florida. Nurse found out he won the award Saturday when it was presented to him on live TV.
“They’re very special,” Nurse said on TNT Saturday night. “Let’s start with Kyle and Fred and the rest of the players and staff and all that kind of stuff. It just doesn’t happen [without them]. It’s a real organization-type award. I said that when we went to coach the All-Star Game, too, but it’s true.
“You’re not given that award without guys like Kyle and Fred, Serge [Ibaka] and Marc [Gasol], Pascal [Siakam], and OG [Anunoby], all the way down that are going out there and performing on the court every night. [And] you’re not getting an award without a great staff.”