Kevin Love had 4 necessary phrases for his teammate Kyle Lowry, whose play down the stretch of the fourth quarter with an injured Jimmy Butler propelled the Miami Heat to a surprising Game 1 victory over the Knicks on Sunday.
“You’re a smart motherf—–,” Love stated to Lowry. “That last four minutes, he knew what he needed to do.”
With Butler planted within the nook relegated to a floor-spacing position from the 5:05 mark by means of the ultimate buzzer, the Heat turned to Lowry, the previous NBA champion alongside Kawhi Leonard main the 2019 Toronto Raptors to a Finals victory over the Golden State Warriors.
The star guard delivered, a reminder simply how loaded the Heat may be if the 37-year-old six-time All-Star turns again the clock like he did in Game 1.
“He’s a winner. An absolute winner,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra stated after the sport. “And when you need him most, that’s when he’s gonna show up.”
Lowry stuffed the stat sheet in Sunday’s matinee recreation: He completed with 18 factors, six assists, 5 rebounds and 4 blocks — indicative of all he brings to the basketball courtroom regardless of standing simply six toes tall.
The purpose? It’s Madison Square Garden, the world’s largest stage, and Lowry desires the highlight.
“This place was amazing. It was electric, and as a basketball player, you want to play at the Mecca,” he stated postgame. “You want to play in this type of atmosphere. For me, it’s just being able to stay the course. I’ve been in this league 17 years, and every moment: I’ve been in big moments, I’ve been in lower moments, I’ve been in the bubble, I’ve been in a situation where you’ve got no fans, and just being able to stay level-headed the whole time is amazing.”
With simply over seven minutes left within the fourth quarter on Sunday, Lowry bought a block on R.J. Barrett’s drive to the rim, then saved the ball earlier than it went out of bounds, tipping the rock to a teammate to start out a transition alternative.
Minutes later, he pump faked 3 times earlier than floating a shot over Mitchell Robinson’s outstretched arm. When the shot missed and Robinson grabbed the rebound, Lowry swiped the ball out of the Knicks middle’s fingers and regained possession for the Heat. The Heat have been solely up three at that time, however the play resulted in a triple for Gabe Vincent.
An prolonged lead courtesy of the veteran guard’s wits.
“Kyle, in the fourth quarter, made three or four just veteran, physical, heady plays,” Spoelstra stated postgame. “Savvy plays defensively that you can’t really teach. You just have to match competitive wills with competitive wills, and Kyle is one of those guys.”
Lowry additionally hit a contested jumper over Immanuel Quickley to provide the Heat a 94-84 lead with lower than three minutes left within the ultimate interval. And on the very subsequent play, he bought one other cease on the driving Barrett, this time a swipe-down steal he additionally stored inbounds that led to a different Heat alternative in transition.
“Championship DNA. I mean, that’s a Hall of Famer sitting over there,” Love advised a small group of reporters postgame. “It wasn’t solely him attending to the free throw line flattening pictures. It’s simply how good he’s.
“It was a beautiful thing to watch: a guy that I’ve had a lot of admiration for in my career and now I get to play with him and watch him go and do his thing because he’s capable every single night.”
Spoelstra stated Sunday’s matchup in opposition to the Knicks wasn’t the perfect recreation he’s seen from the veteran level guard who joined the Heat as a free agent final season. Coincidentally, the Knicks had a possibility to commerce for Lowry in 2013, however talks subsided when proprietor James Dolan stepped in, fearing the Knicks would lose that commerce like they did the Andrea Bargnani take care of the Raptors. Meanwhile, Knicks star Jalen Brunson struggled below the hawking strain of Butler’s mid-game protection.
The Knicks’ star shot simply 11-of-23 from the sphere for his 25 factors and turned the ball over 5 instances to his seven assists.
Spoelstra did say, nevertheless, that this has been the healthiest stretch of video games for Lowry this season. Lowry missed 5 weeks of motion across the All-Star break with a left knee damage. His 18 factors in opposition to the Knicks have been essentially the most he’s scored in a recreation this season because the day after Christmas, and with Butler’s standing in query for Game 2, the Heat plan to lean closely on a participant whose shoulders proved robust sufficient to hold the load on Sunday.
“These kinds of environments, at this point in his career, this place was electric,” Spoelstra stated. “This is all that Kyle wants at this point of his career are these kinds of opportunities in the playoffs to have a chance to hopefully win some games in the playoffs.”