SportsPulse: What was once thought to be an impossible task is now reality: The Toronto Raptors have won the NBA Championship, dethroning the Warriors. USA TODAY
OAKLAND, Calif. — Kawhi Leonard won the NBA Finals MVP, but teammate Kyle Lowry might have earned something almost as sweet.
A break from his critics.
Lowry, the Toronto Raptors point guard, had 26 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds to help propel the Raptors to the NBA title with a 114-110 victory over the Golden State Warriors on Thursday night at Oracle Arena.
“He gets more slandered than anybody I ever seen in the league,’’ said Fred VanVleet, the Raptors backup point guard.
They were ripping Lowry after his disappointing performances in Game 1 and Game 2 of the NBA Finals. They were ripping him again when he failed to get off a clean shot on a potential game-winner at the end of Game 5.
But Game 6 on Thursday was a tough night for his critics, as Lowry scored the Raptors first 11 points — on 4-for-4 shooting, including two 3-pointers — and staked his team a 11-2 lead.
Lowry finished the quarter with 15 points, giving the Raptors an important early jolt. In the end, he matched teammate Pascal Siakam with a team-high 26 points.
“But he should have had 50,’’ VanVleet joked, as if stealing a line from one of Lowry’s critics.
A 13-year veteran, Lowry sounded impervious to the criticism — whether it’s for his ghastly shooting or inconsistency — especially now that he is at last part of an NBA championship team.
“People got their own opinions,’’ Lowry said. “They can say what they want to say. They always have. I hear them, I listen, but they don’t affect my life.’’
When Lowry is shooting bricks, his teammates come to his defense. He’s vital to setting the pace on offense, they say. But on Thursday, his impact was obvious not just to his teammates but even to the uninitiated eye.
“I took what the game was going to give me, but I wanted to be aggressive,’’ he said.
Oddly enough, the season started with Lowry unhappy after the Raptors traded his good friend DeMar DeRozan as part of a deal for Kawhi Leonard. Thursday, TV cameras caught them in a joyous embrace after the Raptors won their first championship in their 24-year history.
Leonard mentioned to reporters that he’d texted Lowry shortly after the trade.
“When he texted me it was a quick text and just showed the type of person he is,’’ Lowry said. “Willing to reach out, understanding that this situation was a little bit sensitive. But he knew that he felt something could be done special with our group …”
But how could Leonard have possibly known what might transpire? That not only would the Raptors win their first NBA title, but that Lowry would quiet his critics.
At least for a night.
Follow Josh Peter on Twitter @joshlpeter11