Welcome to King of the Court, our daily celebration of the best performances in basketball from the night that was. We’ll be keeping track of the best player of every night of the NBA season, and tallying the results as we go along.
King of the Court: Kyle Lowry
In the aftermath of the executive order temporarily banning refugees and blocking travel from seven majority-Muslim countries, plenty of NBA coaches and players spoke out in opposition to it. But Kyle Lowry’s comments, while perhaps not the most thought-out or essential, were far and away my favorite. He went route one, etiquette be damned, let God and post-production sort out all the rest:
As plainly as I can put it, you should start loving Kyle Lowry, right now, before you find yourself out here lonely, looking foolish. The above video is Exhibit A. Exhibit B is this string of tweets from TSN Raptors beat reporter Josh Lewenberg following a home win over the Minnesota Timberwolves in early December, after which Lowry and DeMar DeRozan read each other for reasons pertaining to shot selection, right on down to choice of headwear. Scarcely have a backcourt duo’s cheeks seemed more pinchable.
The operative term in all this is “analytic-wise,” which time and a snub bore out to mean: “As a team, we actually score more points per 100 possessions when you’re on the bench, but I both love and respect you, and am genuinely proud of you for nabbing a starting spot on the 2017 All-Star roster, my good man, even if it was technically at my expense.”
Wisdom states that you should forgive those who trespass against you but bookmark all their subtweets for later use and make every game before the All-Star break a statement game. Kyle Lowry made a statement Tuesday night. I just hate that it had to be against the New Orleans Pelicans.
Toronto found itself in a 14-point hole going into the third quarter at home, with no DeRozan to walk through that door and help the team out of it, as the shooting guard was not in the lineup for the fourth time in five games. That turned out to be just fine, as, after a night of streaky shooting, Lowry remembered that he is third in the league in fourth-quarter scoring and did as he does in the fourth quarter, scoring 10 and assisting on a Patrick Patterson bucket at the death to send the game to a fifth frame, knotted up at 96.
Lowry proceeded to score seven of Toronto’s 12 overtime points, for a total of 33 on the night, including a step-back 21-footer over a fully elongated Solomon Hill to set up the 108–106 win with 1.9 seconds left. Like Earl Sweatshirt groused on that Danny Brown song: “Boy it’s the left-handed shooter, Kyle Lowry the pump.”
As deeply as this hurt me emotionally — and physically, since I kicked my apparently reinforced-steel ottoman — I can appreciate that this was great and Kyle Lowry is great. In the tunnel after the game, Lowry told DeRozan that he briefly considered doing the “Sam Cassell dance,” which was on its own just good but might’ve been great, had Lowry actually done it.
So, as I said before: Start loving Kyle Lowry now. Preferably before it becomes a bandwagon thing and we have to kick you off because we’re all full up. Because then it’ll be super awkward.
Runner-up: Kawhi Leonard
Let the record show that the Thunder nearly crept back into Tuesday night’s game against the Spurs. Having trailed 52–42 at the half, they came out swinging in the second half, going on a 9–0 run to take a 71–68 lead into the final four minutes of the third quarter. After an uninspiring first half, it looked as though Russell Westbrook and Co. might actually Do The Shit, until Kawhi Leonard decided that he’d had quite enough of all this nonsense and grabbed the game by the scruff of its neck with his notoriously sizable hands. It started with a midrange jumper, then a 3-point play, which eventually snowballed into OKC going scoreless those last few minutes of the third. And in the fourth, well, just look at what Kawhi did to Victor Oladipo.
He had 36 points, and San Antonio won 108–94.
Honorable Mention: Ryan Anderson
The Rockets beat the Kings into a light and frothy mix Tuesday, 105–83. Ryan Anderson led all scorers — which included DeMarcus Cousins, James Harden, and others, but those two seem especially important — with 25 points and 6-of-12 shooting from the 3-point line.
Ryan Anderson used to be a Pelican, before the two decided to see other people this past offseason. It’s good to see that he’s doing well, but I think I’m going to watch this commercial 10 times, then walk to the nearest body of water to stare out over it contemplatively.