It was a nothing play in a nothing game, yet it could have huge reprecussions for the Raptors in their second round series against the Boston Celtics. All we know right now is that Toronto’s leader Kyle Lowry has a left ankle sprain — no further information, updates, or timetable for return. An MRI has confirmed this diagnosis, but that’s it.
It happened in the first quarter of Sunday night’s Game 4 contest against the Nets — the last time we’ll have to see that cursed team for some time — as Kyle Lowry was tearing down the court. Brooklyn guard Chris Chiozza headed across to impede Lowry’s path and in the process, Kyle stepped on Chiozza’s foot.
Here’s the play in question, which is not particularly grizzly, but upsetting enough.
The Raptors would, of course, go on to absolutely thrash the hell out of the Nets, even without Lowry. They scored a franchise-record 150 points in Game 4, while setting a new league record with 100 points off the bench. The Nets were so overmatched by the second half of Game 4, it looked like both teams were hitting the fast forward button to move on with their night (and their vacation plans, in Brooklyn’s case). In all, the Raptors mostly cruised to the sweep, winning three out of four games with extreme ease. (Only Game 2 felt at all tough, and even then the Raptors were the better team down the stretch.)
This makes Lowry’s injury all the more of frustrating. Heading into their opening round series with Brooklyn, it was obvious all the Raptors had to do was play their game, stay healthy, and they’d win. They managed to do most of that no problem — not even a random hot streak from a random Net could derail them — but not all. And now the Celtics are waiting for them. And they present a much more difficult test for the Raptors in their quest to repeat as champions.
Now, Boston is also dealing with injury problems of their own. In the first game of their series against the Philadelphia 76ers (which also ended in an abject sweep), forward Gordon Hayward sprained his ankle — always cause for concern given his injury history. The twist was bad enough that Hayward had to leave the Bubble to recuperate. He was given a four-week timetable to return, which means he is likely to miss the entire series against Toronto. It’s an unfortunate turn of events, made worse by the compressed schedule of the Bubble playoffs.
Still, and no disrespect to Hayward, he’s not what Lowry is to Toronto. The Raptors can for sure count on Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam, and the rest of their championship-ready core, but they need Lowry to get everyone moving at the right speed. He’s the engine for the whole team, the player who sets the tone, and the man who maximizes whatever this Raptors team can do together as a unit. Toronto saw some sterling play in Lowry’s absence on Sunday night — particularly from Norman Powell, who took his spot in the lineup — but that came against the comically depleted Nets. They’ll need Lowry to help win four games against Boston.
So, as seems to somehow always be the case with the Raptors in the playoffs, we now have to hunker down with our anxiety and wait for news. On Sunday night we also saw Luka Doncic go off to beat the Clippers in their Game 4, doing so on a sprained ankle. It’s possible the outcome here for Lowry could be the same or similiar. Or he could miss games this series. As coach Nick Nurse implied, Lowry is as tough as they come and it will take a whale of an injury to keep him off the court. Kyle hasn’t left the Bubble, so it seems possible he could be ready to go soon. Game 1 is indeed on Thursday, so there’s still time to get right.
But we just don’t know.
OK, we know something.
Alvin Williams has spoken to Lowry and is “99.9 percent sure” he’ll be ready to play in Game 1. This is not an official announcement, or medical update, but it’s also not... nothing?