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Watch the Tape: Kyle Lowry “has this intensity about him”

We explore how Toronto’s Kyle Lowry became an invincible golden god with a towel for a headband in this week’s Watch the Tape.

Watch the Tape will teach you absolutely nothing about basketball, how to watch it better, or how it’s properly played. It WILL take you on a tour of some of the finest, and most random Raptors-related (and sometimes adjacent) material on the net.

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Comedy is all about defying expectations. Given that, I’m sure the game the Raptors played last night was the pinnacle of comedy for just about every other fanbase in the league. Of course, the thing about jokes is that they tend to not be very funny when they’re played on you.

So, could I choose to write this article about Serge Ibaka’s fight with Marquese Chriss, a sequence ripe for rigorous over-analysis and futile attempts at psycho-analyzing all the involved parties (including this excitable gentleman)? Yes, I could choose that. But I’d prefer to examine a clip from a game that didn’t make me miserable.

Now, the thing about the clip I chose is that I can’t actually tell you much about it right now. Like I said, comedy is all about defying expectations. You need a punchline and a setup. A punchline without the setup isn’t nearly as funny, it’s what we call a non-sequitur. If I explain what makes this clip so noteworthy I’ll have given you a punchline with no setup, and thus will have ruined the joke. You’ll just have to watch it.

0:00-0:03: Matthew Devlin, with a tone of awe and reverence in his voice, introduces the topic for this fluff segment, which occurred following a timeout midway through the third quarter of the Raptors’ Sunday afternoon road win over the Miami Heat. Kyle Lowry’s home/road splits, shown on screen, are both fairly extreme and fairly bizarre: Lowry has played dramatically better on the road than in the friendly confines of Scotiabank Arena. All of this can be rationally explained, however, without the resorting to the use of platitudes such as Lowry being a “gamer” who “thrives in the face of adversity.”

Lowry was healthy at the beginning of the year, when the Raptors went on multiple extended road trips. He was hurt midway through the year, when the Raptors had their longest home-stand. A broadcast booth, however, is a place for drama and exaggeration, not rational explanation. You can bet your bottom dollar that neither Devlin, nor Leo Rautins, both true broadcasting professionals, will be mentioning Lowry’s health. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

0:03-0:12: Now enters the true hero of this clip, one Leo Rytis Rautins. Leo picks his emphasis carefully: “That’s what you want your stars to do, step-up in the most difficult environments.”

From the way Leo chooses his emphasis you know we aren’t messing around here. Lowry is a serious player who means serious business in this serious game. Lowry is the team’s irreplaceable leader and star, and according to Leo he’s no coward either. He’s not buckling under the pressure of this difficult, trying game. He’s stepping up. As Leo describes him, he is the peak sportsman, the player every athlete strives to be. A star who is not just immune to pressure, but empowered by pressure.

0:12-0:24: Visual evidence. Numbers, like those we were presented with by the graphic at the start of this clip, can be a powerful tool. But they can never trump the visceral thrill of watching an elite player carve up his opposition. We no longer have to take Matt and Leo at their words. Lowry is dominating the Heat, and not only that, he’s doing it in a variety of ways. First with savvy, skill, and selflessness, as he threads the needle to find Pascal Siakam with a pretty bounce pass in transition. Then with strength, speed, and determination as he bulls his way past a larger defender to finish at the basket. Then with fearless, confident shot-making, as he steps off a screen early in the clock to drill a moving, contested three-point shot. Truly, tonight, he is a powerful basketball-man. Not to be trifled with.

Leo Rautins, now monologuing with the air of Laurence Olivier, further drives home this point. Lowry is not only eviscerating the Heat, he is doing so nearly single-handedly, as tonight he is playing without fellow All-Star Kawhi Leonard at his side. He then says what we could all plainly see simply by watching the images on our screens: Lowry has this intensity about him, this focus.

Lowry is in the zone. At this point he is an unassailable basketball titan. He radiates intensity, glows with focus. The difficulties he faces, playing the Miami Heat on the road in March, would destroy any lesser player, but he is totally unaffected by them. He exists in a different dimension from all of us, an astral projection who can perceive and shape our world, all the while remaining uninfluenced and untouched by the forces which guide our mortal lives. He is a beautiful animal, a destroyer of worlds.

0:24-0:35: He is a benevolent god. “I just get the feeling that he really likes this team,” says Rautins. Thank goodness. Can you imagine the havoc that would be wrecked if a being as powerful as Lowry didn’t like this team?

On screen, we see what Lowry does to those that displease him, he destroys them, and then he mocks them. As he hits yet another three-point shot he turns to the Heat bench to deliver what is no doubt a scathing insult that will haunt every Heat player until their dying day. They will surely live each remaining second of their lives in self-doubt, always casting their mind back to the verbal evisceration we can see Lowry issue here. Is what he said true? If what he’s said is true can I go on playing basketball? Those are the questions that will haunt them. That is what happens when Kyle Lowry does not really like your team. Pray that the Raptors should never be so unlucky.

“He’s going to give it everything he has,” Rautins goes on to say. Surely, if Kyle Lowry is going to give it everything he has, a single championship will not be enough. As a wise man once said, they will need to win “not one, not two, not three, not four… not seven” to sate his thirst for conquest. Kawhi Leonard will surely re-sign, out of fear if nothing else. Fear of what Lowry would do to him if he did not.

0:35-0:39: All right. Time for the money shot. The man himself as he was in the moment this clip ran. If he is how Rautins describes him then an aura of intensity and focus will be exuding from him, as visible and real as the flesh of his body. We will fear him and be inspired by him in equal measure. As described by Rautins he is more than a basketball player, he is an ideal. Rautins promises us he will look as described: “You can see it every time he steps out on the floor.”

I could picture him on the bench looking something like this:

Instead, this:

As I detailed in this tweet, last night I got drunk for reasons, and then proceeded to watch this clip on repeat. Every time the above image blessed my screen I could not help but explode with mirth.

However you thought Lowry would look following Leo’s monologue, you could not have possibly thought he would look like that. It is the perfect absurd subversion of expectations. It is peak comedy.