After years of anguish and accomplishment, Kyle Lowry finally in NBA Finals

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TORONTO – Each player’s press conference at NBA Finals media day began the same way. A player sat down. NBA communications director Jim LaBumbard immediately called on a reporter for a question.

Except Kyle Lowry‘s.

Lowry sat down smirking at LaBumbard, who previously worked for the Raptors.

“You ready?” LaBumbard asked.

“Sure, go ahead,” Lowry said.

Lowry has been preparing a long time for this moment.

He has spent most of his career just trying to prove himself as a full-time starter, getting bounced from the Grizzlies to the Rockets to the Raptors. He found a home in Toronto and developed into a star. But that just set him up to be tormented by LeBron James nearly annually in the playoffs.

Now, Lowry has finally reached the pinnacle of his sport, the NBA Finals.

“He’s been hit upside the head from every different angle and every different angle in the world – whether it’s personal, everything,” Raptors president Masai Ujiri said, “and he survives it.

“There’s something about that guy that I just believe in. It’s incredible. We have been through so much, and he’s a winner. There’s no other way to put it. He’s a winner.”

Lowry is a five-time All-Star in his 13th season. Just seven players have hit that honor-longevity combination then played in their first NBA Finals:

  • Tracy McGrady (2013 Spurs)
  • Mitch Richmond (2002 Lakers)
  • Kevin Garnett (2008 Celtics)
  • Alonzo Mourning (2006 Heat)
  • Reggie Miller (2000 Pacers)
  • Chris Mullin (2000 Pacers)
  • John Stockton (1997 Jazz)

Only Garnett, Miller and Stockton were still stars by their Finals debuts. Mourning was a role player. McGrady, Richmond and Mullin were deep reserves.

Lowry is still a star.

He’s an unconventional one who does so many little things to help his team. He takes charges, sets screens, tips loose balls, makes extra passes, directs teammates. Of course, he scores and assists plenty. But traditional box-score stats don’t fully capture his impact on the court.

They certainly don’t capture his impact off it. Lowry, who spent a while moping about his close friend DeMar DeRozan getting traded, has become an ally of Kawhi Leonard. Though not facing his own contract-year speculation, Lowry understands the pressure stars face. He also relates to younger teammates just tryin to establish themselves in the league, a predicament he faced early in his career.

“He’s a better teammate than he is a player,” Fred VanVleet said.

But for everything Lowry did right, postseason success eluded him.

His individual performances were up-and-down through the playoffs. He wasn’t as bad as his critics made him out to be, nor did he sustain the high level of play he demonstrated in the regular season. But Toronto consistently struggled.

So, when he finally won the East, Lowry – who’s often brooding publicly – became uncontrollably overjoyed:

Yet, as the NBA Finals approach, he’s locked back in.

“Getting here doesn’t do anything but getting here,” Lowry said. “We still want to try to win this.”

It’s the right approach and of course the one Lowry would take. He’s a true competitor. A championship would be so satisfying.

But, after all he’d been through, getting here did mean something to him. You could see it all over his face.

Timberwolves’ Karl-Anthony Towns out 4-6 weeks with calf strain

Minnesota Timberwolves v Washington Wizards
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It’s not good news, but it looked like it could have been much worse.

Timberwolves big man Karl-Anthony Towns is out for weeks with a right calf strain, the team announced Tuesday following an MRI exam. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reports it is likely 4-6 weeks.

The injury occurred midway through the third quarter Monday when Towns started to run back upcourt and went to the ground without contact, grabbing his knee and calf. It looked scary — Achilles scary — and he had to be helped off the court.

Towns has averaged 21.4 points and 8.5 rebounds a game, and while his numbers are down this season — just 32.8% on 3-pointers — the team has struggled at times without him, particularly lineups with Rudy Gobert and Anthony Edwards together, an -11.8 net rating (in non-garbage time minutes, via Cleaning the Glass).

Kevin Durant on chasing MVP: ‘Not really, I’ve been there, done that’

Orlando Magic v Brooklyn Nets
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Kevin Durant carried the Nets to another win Monday night, scoring 45 points on 19-of-24 shooting, plus seven rebounds and five assists.

If you’re having an MVP conversation a quarter of the way into the NBA season, Durant has to be part of it: 30 points per game on 54.8% shooting (and a ridiculous 65.9 true shooting percentage), 6.6 rebounds and 5.5 assists a game, plus playing solid defense and being the anchor of the Nets. After his 45-point outing to get Brooklyn a win over Orlando, Durant was asked about MVP chants and the chase for the award and was clearly not interested.

Durant has MVP numbers, but so do Stephen Curry, Luka Doncic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jayson Tatum and others. If Durant is going to move to the front of the conversation, the first thing that has to happen is Brooklyn has to win a lot more games — 11-11 is not going to cut it when Tatum’s Celtics and Antetokounmpo’s Bucks have the two best records in the NBA. Winning games and finishing on a top-three team in the conference matters to some voters (and traditionally is one measure of an MVP).

Watch Herb Jones inbound off Pokusevski’s back, seal win for Pelicans

Oklahoma City Thunder v New Orleans Pelicans
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With 2.3 seconds left in the game and the Thunder down 2, they needed to steal the inbounds pass from New Orleans to have a real chance. That’s why when Aleksej Pokusevski walked on the court it looked like he was going to guard the inbounder, Herbert Jones.

Instead, Pokusevski turned his back to Jones, putting himself in position to step in front of anyone cutting to the ball to catch the inbounds. Except, Jones made the clever play to seal the game.

Pokusevski fouled Jones, who sank both free throws and sealed the 105-101 Pelicans win.

The Pelicans got 23-8-8 from Zion Williamson and picked up a win without CJ McCollum or Brandon Ingram in the lineup. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander continued his dominant start to the season and scored 31.

Watch Lakers fan drain half-court shot to win $75,000

Indiana Pacers v Los Angeles Lakers
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It might have been the loudest the crypto.com Arena was all night.

Between the third and fourth quarters, Lakers fan Jamie Murry of Downey won $75,000 draining a half-court shot — and he got to celebrate with Anthony Davis.

Murry’s celebration is the best part — with Anthony Davis coming out to celebrate with him (and seeming a little shocked by the hug).

One other big shot fell at this game, but Lakers’ fans didn’t like it as much — Pacers’ rookie Andrew Nembhard drained a game-winning 3-pointer as time expired.