Kyle Lowry had made a three-pointer, he had taken a charge and he had finished an old-fashioned three-point play, playing the kind of all-around disruptive game that has been his trademark since he arrived in Toronto seven seasons ago.
Then the fouls came and the whistles tooted and Game 2 of the NBA Finals bogged down, with Lowry reduced to spectator at the end and Toronto unable to take advantage of a wonderful opportunity to bury the Golden State Warriors.
Instead, with Lowry limited to 28 minutes by foul trouble that created some herky-jerky playing rotations and saw him foul out with just under four minutes to go, the Raptors fell 109-104 to the Warriors on Sunday night.
The best-of-seven series is now tied 1-1, with Games 3 and 4 in Oakland on Wednesday and Friday and Game 5 back in Toronto next Monday.
Lowry’s foul trouble is not new — he fouled out of the epic double-overtime game against Milwaukee and finished Game 1 of the Finals with five — and its impact was huge Sunday. It limited him to 13 points and two assists and, combined with similar troubles for a handful of other Raptors, created issues of flow all night.
“I just think we had a few guys in foul trouble kind of early,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said. ”So, I don’t know, you’ve got to play physical basketball but you’ve got to be able to adjust … and try to stay out of it. And you’ve got to avoid the silly ones, too.”
Or just deal with the whistle better.
“You have to adjust to the way the game is being played and officiated,” Marc Gasol said of his six-point, four-foul night. “Once you’re in foul trouble or whatever the case may be, you have to adapt.”
Lowry wasn’t in a complaining mood after the game. “I’m not going to get in trouble,” he said. “But a couple of them I didn’t think I fouled … At the end of the day, I just have to put myself in a better position not to foul.”
The Raptors point guard picked up three personals early and played just 13 first-half minutes. Some of his foul troubles are due to his aggressive nature and his willingness to try to draw offensive fouls whenever he can, and some come from his teammates not helping as much as they could.
“He’s a great charge-taker, right,” Nurse said, “and I know one of (Sunday’s fouls) was possibly a charge, block-charge, and those are tough, they go each way. But maybe that sixth one, I didn’t really see it in the game. So in the backcourt, probably 80 feet or so from the basket, those are ones you got to be careful, especially when you got five.”
“I think Kyle got a rough whistle a little bit,” teammate Fred VanVleet said.
Lowry’s third personal came when he tried to take a charge from Golden State centre DeMarcus Cousins, about five minutes after he had successfully taken one from Klay Thompson. That first-half collision with Thompson was the 16th charge Lowry has taken in the playoffs. No other player has taken more than seven.
The Raptors, even without Lowry, got within two points in the final 26 seconds but after a scrambled possession in which the Raptors tried for a steal rather than a foul, Andre Iguodala hit a game-clinching three-pointer with 5.9 seconds left.
The loss wasted another dominant performance by Kawhi Leonard, who had 34 points, including 16 free throws made in as many attempts. VanVleet chipped in 17 points. Thompson, who sat out the final five minutes with left hamstring tightness, led the Warriors with 25 points, and Stephen Curry added 23.
“Klay said he’ll be fine, but Klay could be half dead and he would say he would be fine,” Golden State coach Steve Kerr said. “We’ll see. He pulled his hamstring. He thinks it is minor, so I don’t know what that means going forward.”
And Lowry? Nurse has to figure out when to ride him through the foul trouble. He was more likely to let him run in the regular season, because Lowry had shown he was smart enough not to get in too much trouble. But the playoffs, and the Finals, are a different level of intensity and physicality.
“We have been in some foul trouble in the playoffs a bit with certain guys,” Nurse said before the game. “It’s strange because it doesn’t seem like you’re ever in foul trouble in the regular season.”
Doug Smith is a sports reporter based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @smithraps