TORONTO – Kyle Lowry said he both loves and hates playing against former Toronto Raptors teammate Fred VanVleet.
Wednesday, it was more hate than love.
Still feeling the effects of what he called a bad cold, VanVleet had 23 points and eight assists, while O.G. Anunoby scored a season-high 32 points and hauled down 10 rebounds, and the Raptors spoiled Lowry’s return to Toronto with a 112-104 win over the Miami Heat.
“(VanVleet) is one of the most competitive players ever, from Day 1 in training camp, picking me up full court,” Lowry said. “He’s a guy that his career, his path is going to be a story, and is going to continue to be one of the greatest stories in NBA history, because he’s going to continue to get better.”
Scottie Barnes finished with 19 points for the Raptors (9-7), who snapped Miami’s three-game winning streak on the way to their fourth consecutive win at Scotiabank Arena. Chris Boucher had 15 points, and Thaddeus Young chipped in with 12 points and eight boards.
Max Strus led the Heat (7-8) with 20 points, while Lowry had 19 points in his second game in Toronto since he was traded to Miami in the 2021 off-season.
VanVleet returned after missing a pair of games with a non-COVID illness.
“I still feel like s—,” VanVleet said. “You know when you’re sick and you wake up, you feel better the day before, you think you’re ready to go? Took all about three minutes (Wednesday) before I realized I wasn’t 100 per cent yet.”
He wasn’t going to miss playing Lowry. They remain close friends and still talk every couple of days, VanVleet said.
“It’s funny for me (playing him),” VanVleet said with a laugh. “There’s nothing he could do to frustrate me. It’s annoying when he tricks the refs but other than that, it’s just fun watching him do what he does.
“I thought he was old three years ago, to see him still kicking and making an impact and putting pressure on the defence, you could just see the greatness in him. Just fun to match up against him, keeps you working … you’ve got to be attentive all the time — it’s a fun chess match.”
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For the first half on Wednesday, it looked like Miami would come out the winners. The Raptors trailed by as many as 10 points in the first half, before finding another gear in the third quarter.
VanVleet’s three-pointer with 2:04 left in the third was the exclamation point on a 21-0 run that put the Raptors up by 10. The Raptors forced seven Miami turnovers in the frame, and led 84-79 to start the fourth.
“We switched our coverages and matchups and then they took a timeout and we switched a third thing that we hadn’t used yet and that kind of kept that streak going. I think it was 13 straight stops,” said Raptors coach Nick Nurse. “That was it. It got us going.”
Jimmy Butler’s free throws with 4:41 to play sliced the difference to just two points, but when Boucher slashed to the hoop for a dunk and then drilled a three-pointer on Toronto’s next possession, the Raptors went ahead 110-102 with 1:29 to play to the delight of the Scotiabank Arena crowd.
With the Raptors’ injuries mounting — Dalano Banton left with an ankle injury in the third quarter — the victory was another patchwork effort by Nurse. Toronto’s coach was asked pre-game if it’s difficult to coach against Lowry since his former all-star guard knows every play in the book. Toronto is so short-handed, Nurse said with a half-hearted laugh that “Most of our playbook right now is in the rubbish bin because we’ve got so many guys who are playing different positions. We’re just trying to piece it together.”
Lowry was loudly cheered during introductions and then went out and drilled a three for the game’s first points. The Heat led the rest of the first half. Butler’s fadeaway shot late in the first quarter put the Heat up by nine and they led 31-27 to start the second.
Anunoby had 12 points in the second quarter, including a driving layup five minutes before halftime that sliced the difference to just a point. But Miami answered with a 15-6 run to go up 10, and took a 60-54 advantage into the break.
The teams split a pair of games in Miami in late-October.
The Raptors were missing Pascal Siakam (groin), Precious Achiuwa (ankle), Gary Trent Jr. (hip soreness), and Otto Porter Jr. (dislocated toe). The Heat were missing Tyler Herro (ankle) and Bam Adebayo (knee contusion).
Banton earned a warm ovation when announced in the starting lineup, his first-ever start at Scotiabank Arena and second in a row after his career-high 27-point performance in Detroit on Monday. Banton, who grew up in Toronto, was the first Canadian ever drafted by the Raptors.
The Raptors are in Atlanta to play the Hawks on Saturday then return to host three in a row against Brooklyn, Dallas and Cleveland.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 16, 2022.
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