TORONTO – It was a humorous moment, but one that said plenty about Kyle Lowry.
Raptors big man Serge Ibaka had gone down hard on one play Friday night, and he lay on the court grimacing and rubbing his knee.
Lowry dashed onto the Amway Center court in the ensuing timeout, and leaned over Ibaka vigorously rubbing the knee while yelling words of encouragement in his face.
The morning after Toronto’s 98-93 victory over Orlando in Game 3 of their playoff series, Raptors coach Nick Nurse spoke appreciatively about his team leader.
“As a coach it’s always great to have a veteran point guard that can run your team and motivate your team. Kyle does things by example,” Nurse said. “He throws his body around. He’s continually blocking out guys seemingly twice his size and keeping them off the glass. He’s stepping in and taking charges.
“Those are inspiring-type plays, I think, that rub off and are contagious and get your team — the rest of the guys — to do it.”
The 32-year-old guard has played 65 post-season games in his career. He took some heat when he didn’t score in Game 1, but responded with a vengeance by scoring 22 points in a Game 2 rout. Lowry scored 12 points and had 10 assists in Friday’s 98-93 victory.
But Lowry adds so much that can’t be measured by a stats sheet. He’s a relentless ball of energy. He sacrifices his body for charges like a vintage inflatable clown punching bag.
Nurse said Lowry also gives him a “louder voice” as a coach.
“If you want to come in there and kick some butt in a timeout and say, ‘You guys aren’t blocking out good enough,’ they can’t say, ‘When are you going to start blocking out,’ because (Lowry’s) been blocking out the whole game,” Nurse said. “He’s got a leadership built in. His natural instincts are to play tough and to lead and that’s what we need him to do.
“Again, you take the open shot and make a play here and there, but primarily we need him to play tough and lead.”
Lowry had a huge play down the stretch of a game that was decided in the final seconds Friday night. Leading by just three points, Kawhi Leonard missed on a shot and Lowry sprinted through three Orlando players to secure the key offensive rebound.
“That was a huge play,” Nurse said. “That was a big play, and that was just a hustle, effort and instinct play. That’s the way he plays and he makes those.”
Is Lowry’s leadership more vocal or by example?
“Both. He’s very vocal with the team. Even after the game, he’s pulling them together in the locker-room and (saying), ‘That’s a tough-ass road win,’ and continuing to coach them and lead them and motivate them.”
The Raptors face the Magic again at Amway Center on Sunday. The series returns to Toronto for Game 5 on Tuesday.