Over the first two games of the Raptors-Wizards series, both played in Toronto, Kyle Lowry has played 60 minutes, scored 13 total points, hit five of 20 shots, and committed ten personal fouls. Those numbers—they are bad! Not at all coincidentally, the Wizards lead the series 2-0 heading back to D.C., and the Raptors are in grave trouble.
The refereeing in the series has been pretty lousy overall, and both teams have been whistled for some really silly stuff. Still, the Raptors are getting the worst of it, because they’re almost completely dysfunctional whenever Lowry isn’t on the court. Last night’s game, a blowout win for Washington, seemed to fall into a steady rhythm: Lowry would come in and make a play or two, the Toronto crowd would start to get into it, he’d get whistled for another foul—and have to either return to the bench or spend the next several minutes not playing defense, to avoid picking up another foul—and the Wizards would regain control. Even if you were rooting for the Wizards (I was), it was pretty maddening.
Finally, finally, Lowry seemed to catch a break in the second half. He’d picked up his fourth foul toward the back of the third quarter, but stayed in the game and managed to avoid committing another; now, in the middle of the fourth, the Raptors were making a push. They’d narrowed a 23-point deficit to 15, and seemed to have found their footing defensively against a Wizards offense that needs only a gentle nudge to go all the way in the toilet.
At last! The two teams and their All-Star point guards could just go at each other! And with Lowry, one of the game’s most ferocious and ornery competitors, pissed off and out to kick some ass! Then this happened:
That’s Lowry bonking his leg against Paul Pierce’s, and somehow it’s the 29-year-old star and not the 37-year-old mummy coming away with a painful shin bruise. He left the game immediately and didn’t return. The Raptors kept up their push for another three minutes or so, then came apart, and the Wizards won comfortably.
He kept it together during his postgame locker room media session, deploying the rote athlete-speak—“I’ve just gotta figure out a way to stay on the floor,” and “They did a great job setting screens,” and so forth—until asked a question about some trash-talk-y stuff Wizards guard Bradley Beal said at halftime, about the Raptors thinking they could push the Wizards around.
That face. That is the face of a fiercely competitive dude who has been prevented, by a bunch of stupid foul calls, from responding to a challenge directly, fruitfully, on the court, and is now being asked to respond to it indirectly, impotently, in the locker room. It is the face of a man whose body will begin glowing like the heating element on an electric stovetop soon, if the refs keep standing between him and the opponents whose asses he is dying to kick. It is the face of the most frustrated man. Maybe let’s all leave Kyle Lowry alone until Friday.
Photo via AP