Fred VanVleet outduels Kyle Lowry, but Raptors lose to mighty Heat

TORONTO, ON - APRIL 03: Kyle Lowry #7 of the Miami Heat guards Fred VanVleet #23 of the Toronto Raptors (Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - APRIL 03: Kyle Lowry #7 of the Miami Heat guards Fred VanVleet #23 of the Toronto Raptors (Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images) /

Fred VanVleet and the Toronto Raptors prepared for a very emotional night, as they were welcoming Kyle Lowry back to Scotiabank Arena as a member of the visiting Miami Heat for the first time. With playoff positioning at stake, the Raptors couldn’t afford to allow themselves to get caught up in the pageantry.

It looked like the Raptors were on the verge of handling Lowry a devastating loss after a dominant first half. However, Lowry flipped the switch in the same way he did dozens of times during his Toronto days. Miami entered the fourth quarter neck-and-neck with the Raptors.

Lowry helped lead the Heat to a 114-109 victory that snapped Toronto’s five-game winning streak. While Toronto didn’t lose any ground in the race to escape the play-in tournament, they might need to say goodbye to their dream of securing a top-four seed in the Eastern Conference.

While Toronto may not have liked taking the L against Lowry in his return, this showing from VanVleet was eye-opening. He’s not Lowry just yet, but he’s laying the groundwork for a leap that could eventually see him end up in that rarified air.

114. 110. 109. 81. Final

Fred VanVleet helped the Toronto Raptors hang with Kyle Lowry.

VanVleet finished with 29 points on 7-15 shooting and 4-9 from the 3-point line. The VanVleet we saw early in the second half was nowhere near his best version, as knee injuries were taking their toll. Nights like tonight show that he’s back to being his All-Star and All-Defensive self. 

VanVleet totaled 17 points in the first quarter, breaking Lowry’s team-best mark for 3-pointers in a single season. With his penchant for nailing some clutch triples and getting to the line regularly, VanVleet played arguably his best game of the second half.

While Pascal Siakam and Scottie Barnes put forth some respectable efforts in this game, this was yet another Raptors matchup against an elite team where the bench failed to provide anything of value. With the bench totaling just 11 points and starter Khem Birch held scoreless, VanVleet needed to move mountains to keep pace with Miami.

Playing without OG Anunoby certainly didn’t help matters, as it deprived Toronto of a shooter that could space the floor and a masterful on-ball defender that could slow Lowry down. None of that mattered to VanVleet, who put on an offensive masterclass.

Lowry himself finished with 16 points on 4-8 shooting and 10 assists in his first game back in Toronto. As expected, Lowry’s sharp passing and veteran moxie were a big part of why the Raptors were unable to slow down Miami during their second-half resurgence.

Stepping in for a player like Lowry is difficult enough given his talent, but replacing him as the face of the franchise is an even more difficult task. VanVleet has proven he can check both of those boxes with aplomb, as his mano-a-mano duel with Lowry showed the type of leader he has evolved into.

Next. 3 reasons Kyle Lowry is the GROAT. dark