If you’re going to make a statement, Martin Luther King Day can offer all the motivation one needs.
And yes, a team can still make one vs. Brooklyn. Let’s just hope the mainstream realizes it.
So if your fandom is of the casual variety, I would venture to guess that you may not have made Monday’s matchup with the Nets a top priority. I’d have trouble convincing you otherwise considering just how much our entertainment dollar decreased in value when the Raps visited Brooklyn two weeks ago. Not to mention the fact that Golden State facing off against Cleveland was just a click away,
Maybe your focus was elsewhere, though. Making sure you had Drake’s Twitter notifications turned on? With All-Star voting about to close up shop, I wouldn’t exactly blame you. Whatever the case may be, I hope you eventually decided to sit back and enjoy the show.
All-Star Side Note: When the game is in our own backyard, should this
city country really have to rely on celebrity influence to get the job done? And I’ll be the first to throw myself under the bus as I could have voted numerous times more than I did. Though with other players getting boosts from popular public figures, one does have to wonder what the title of “Team Ambassador” actually means when a simple tweet isn’t made to represent just that.
But speaking of representing, I couldn’t help but notice the newest member of the Blue Jays’ bullpen (and possible new Closer) contributing to the cause:
— Drew Storen (@DrewStoren) January 18, 2016
As it turned out, Lowry picked a perfect time to solidify that statement. If there were any doubters left beforehand, he did everything possible to change their way of thinking.
31 points, a career-high seven threes (in nine attempts), a +22 rating, eight dimes, three steals, 77% from the field, and just one turnover will tend to have that effect. To emphasize his efficiency even further, I’ll let Holly MacKenzie’s tweet speak for itself:
Lowry’s perfect fourth quarter: 13 points, 4-for-4 FGs, 3-for-3 3pt FGs, 2-for-2 FTs, two rebs, four assists, three steals, 0 turnovers
— Holly MacKenzie (@stackmack) January 19, 2016
If you were going to hand pick Lowry’s standout performances this season, his efforts against the aforementioned Warriors and Cavs would surely come to mind. Now, I realize the Nets’ level of talent may be light years away from being in the same conversation, but the lasting impression should exist in the same realm.
Which goes well beyond the numbers and who they were up against. Which also leads us back to how this game began.
As we’ve all become accustomed to, the Raps started off sluggish and seemingly disengaged. Help on defense was either late or at times decided to call in sick. Valanciunas’ ability to defend off the blocks was exposed with Brook Lopez taking full advantage. Forcing Lopez to shoot from outside would normally be a welcome sight, but when lazy closeouts are combined with falling for pump-fakes, ones that only negated the times he did get in position quick enough, JV became a bit unraveled.
The Raps opened the game 6-for-18 and allowed the Nets to end the 1st quarter on a 15-4 run. That could be the result of London’s leftover jet lag, but when James Johnson is making it rain from behind the arc in the same timeframe, it was time to get organized.
Enter Lowry, along with the second unit of Patterson, Cojo, TJ Ross, and Bismack. A set-up that earned an extended look throughout most of the second quarter. K-Low quickly set a new tone by getting everyone involved. One that sparked what ultimately became a 27-8 run and then a 3-point halftime lead.
Lowry was never out of control the entire game, even when diving for loose balls to maintain possessions. A relentless attitude that highlighted the start of the second half. And when you’re that hot from downtown, you’d usually see a few heat-check moments mixed in. But his trey attempts on this night were as opportunistic as I’ve seen them.
A major reason those opportunities took place was the need for Brooklyn to account for DeMar DeRozan. As Lowry wasn’t the only one staking his claim for All-Star status.
It’s no secret that the Raps heavily rely on their backcourt, and last night was no different. It’s not often that you see both of them go off on optimum levels on the same night, however, and Monday marked the very first time ever they both surpassed the 30-point mark in the same game.
He had to fend off a bit old-school DeRozan with poor shot-selection creeping into the picture, but new DeMar knows when to utilize his strengths and take advantage of mismatches. I get that Bojan Bogdanovic was a guarantee in that department, but with the way DD is slashing these days, he’s creating countless others across the league. And when you still shoot 48 percent after pulling the trigger 25 times, we’ll take having to be nitpicky to find holes after the fact any day.
The way he’s setting up defenders has become his calling card. You can add another 8 Free-Throw attempts to his already impressive resume. Not to mention his improving presence on defense. A place we’re all waiting for him to evolve in. His anticipation on steals and his new-found willingness to help out on the defensive glass have both resulted in better court awareness.
At this point, it should shock the world if both of them don’t receive the All-Star nod. But more importantly, the Raps have won five straight, their now only three games back in the East, it’s the beginning of an extended homestand, and they just avoided yet another letdown scenario.
Onwards and upwards.