Lowry's hustle, Lou Williams' hot hand, and a tiebreaking jump shot from DeMar DeRozan gave Toronto a 95-93 victory over the Washington Wizards on Wednesday, sending the Raptors into the NBA all-star break with a franchise-best record.
Showing the form that made him an all-star, Lowry was in a footrace with Wizards star John Wall to a loose ball with about three minutes left to play when he dove to the court, sliding on his belly about 15 feet to beat Wall.
"Calculated risk, baby, calculated risk," Lowry said, with a wide grin. "I'm pretty smart when it comes to that type of stuff."
Williams topped Toronto (36-17) with 27 points, while DeRozan scored 23 points, including his jumper with 13 seconds to sealed the victory. Lowry, voted a starter for the Eastern Conference team in Sunday's all-star game, added 13, while Greivis Vasquez finished with 11.
Coaches are always concerned about the final game before the break, but Wednesday's certainly didn't lack for effort or intensity in a battle between two of the best teams in the East.
The Wizards clutched a 76-75 lead going into the fourth quarter in front of a soldout crowd of 19,800 fans at Air Canada Centre that included Ndamukong Suh of the Detroit Lions, who autographed footballs and chucked them up into the crowd.
A three-pointer by Williams and free throw by Amir Johnson put Toronto up by four with just under three minutes to play. Neither team scored until 13 seconds to go, when DeRozan stepped back to drain a jump shot in the face of Paul Pierce — sweet revenge coming against the former Brooklyn Net who blocked Lowry's shot on the final play of Game 7 in last year's playoffs.
"Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah," DeRozan said, smiling. "I'll put that one in my archives and get back at it a long time from now."
John Wall would miss on a long jumper to send the ACC fans home happy.
Wall, who will play alongside Lowry on the East squad, led the Wizards (33-21) with 21 points.
The Raptors go into the season's unofficial halfway point boasting a franchise-record 36 wins. Their previous record at this point of the season was 29 — in 2002, '07 and '10.
It's just the latest milestone Toronto has knocked down in the team's finest season in its 20-year history. But Raptors coach Dwane Casey isn't satisfied.
"No, we're not done yet," the coach said. "I've won 60 games before and won a championship (with Dallas), and I know what it takes. A lot of false things can mask mistakes. There is another level we can get to on offence and defence.
"There were stretches tonight when you might think we already left for vacation, but what I liked is they kept grinding. We're not going to out-talent anybody, we've got to do it collectively. If we don't grind it, get on the floor for loose balls — like when Kyle dove on the floor . . .and hurt his hand, those are the plays we need to make."
The Raptors are second in the Eastern Conference and 3-0 against the Wizards, one of the teams that is hot on Toronto's heels.
The NBA doubled the days off this year to a minimum eight days. The Raptors don't play again until Feb. 20 at Atlanta, giving them nine days off. It's the first of six games in eight days, a gruelling stretch that sees them play five teams with winning records.
"We've just got to go out there and keep continuing to get better," Lowry said. "I want guys to shut their minds off on basketball this whole week and enjoy their break and then come back ready to work, and I think that's what the mindset's going to be."
The game was a fierce fight from the opening whistle with the lead changing hands six times in an opening quarter that saw Toronto take a 27-25 edge into the second.
Three consecutive three-pointers by Toronto gave the Raptors a nine-point lead early in the second, but the Wizards replied with a 13-1 run to go up by three. The Raptors led 49-47 at halftime.
The Wizards took their biggest lead of the game when Wall found Otto Porter for an alley-oop dunk that had Washington up 73-63 with just under three minutes to go in the third. The Raptors closed the quarter with a 12-3 run to trail by one.