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Lowry’s triple-double paces a Raptors win in Atlanta, 124-108

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Vince Carter’s milestone will lead the headlines, but on Wednesday Kyle Lowry continued to cement his own Raptors legacy.

NBA: Toronto Raptors at Atlanta Hawks Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

On a night that started with a solo 5-0 run for Kyle Lowry and ended with Vince Carter surpassing 25,000 points, there’s a lot of tempting ways to make a poetic point about “full circle” narratives. I don’t want to retread that or any greatest Raptor debate, though; nor is it worth comparing the two for anything more than vanity.

There’s no doubt that Carter and Lowry are the two headlines from tonight, however; nor any doubt that Wednesday was a special night for both of them.

It ended with the first great Raptors player surpassed the 25,000 point marker against his old team — doing some shameless gunning in garbage time, capped with a dunk (beautiful!) with under a second to go. With a video tribute airing, with Carter welling up, and with an arena paying him off, the Raptors were content to cede the stage.

Easier to do so when you win by 16 points. Indeed, it was current Raptors legend Kyle Lowry who led the way for Toronto tonight. Lowry notched his 11th career triple-double, amassing 21 points, 17 assists (one short of a career high), and ten rebounds in 32 minutes. He paced the Raptors to a 124-106 win, their third straight, as the team improves to 15-4. The Hawks fall to 3-15.

Lowry was the maestro on this night. With the Hawks pushing the pace, Lowry seemingly slowed down — methodical in the pick and roll, he involved the Raptors bigs over and over, creating easy looks for an offence that shot 53.3% from the field. With Lowry out there, the starters were unstoppable — nobody in that unit finished lower than a +15. Kyle was a game-high +28.

The big man benefitting most from Lowry’s vision was Jonas Valanciunas. Starting in place of Serge Ibaka, Valanciunas got off to his own 5-0 run in the first quarter, getting 11 of his 24 points in the opening frame. JV also had 13 rebounds and a pair of assists.

Ibaka and Pascal Siakam got in on the action too, combining for 41 points on 17-for-24 shooting. All said, the inside game proved too much for the Hawks’ Dewayne Dedmon and Miles Plumlee, who traded off center minutes but couldn’t do much to stop Lowry in the pick and roll.

Both teams started slow, despite the score. The Raps and Hawks combined to miss their first 14 shots, which finally ended when Lowry made a tough jumper and a long triple to get Toronto on the board. Atlanta ceded a bit by bringing in a full bench unit with six minutes left, allowing the Raptors to build their lead further.

Again, though, the bench let the Raptors down. Lorenzo Brown committed three quick turnovers handling the ball, missing two shots, and the Hawks were able to limit the first quarter deficit to five.

The yo-yo continued in the second quarter, as the three-man combination of Brown, Delon Wright, Greg Monroe struggled mightily to create offence. They also allowed the Hawks’ Jeremy Lin to get going. Threatening Linsanity, he would actually finish with a game-high 26 points on 11-for-13 shooting off the bench — and was really the only reason this game never got too far past a 20-point differential.

The Raptors’ starters got an 8-2 run to start the third, and it was basically gravy from there. Another pitiful bench stretch in the fourth put the scare into Nick Nurse, forcing Lowry and Valanciunas to play some unnecessary closing minutes, but that would be the only gripe from a solid win.

Toronto still needs to figure out what they’re going to get from their bench. That much is obvious. They also need to get healthy so Nurse knows what he’s working with. Right now, there’s more pressure on Lowry (and Kawhi Leonard) to be great and win the starters’ minutes.

Fortunately, the Raptors are pretty damn good and ready to do so.