If there’s one thing Raptors coach Dwane Casey has learned in his two years it’s how to coach and manage Kyle Lowry, how to turn a headstrong point guard into a team leader, how to coax greatness out of a strong-willed player who has, at times, resisted instruction.
Casey was repaid here Sunday night unbelievably. Lowry rewarded him and his Raptors teammates with a game for the ages, playing on a bum knee and finishing the night playing with five fouls, the coupe de grace being — get this — a skyhook over Kevin Garnett.

There have been a few wondrous individual performances by Raptors in the post-season over the years but, all things considered, it’s hard to imagine one better than Lowry’s in an 87-79 win over the Brooklyn Nets.

The 22 points were nice and important and came nowhere close to explaining what he meant to his team, as it tied the best-of-seven NBA playoff series at two games each.

He limped onto the court before the game and didn’t stop hobbling the rest of the night. He played the final 6 1/2 minutes with five fouls but still stuck his nose in every scrum. He had one huge steal that stopped a Paul Pierce break, he had big rebounds and hustle plays.

He led his team. And he carried it.

“Man, he was limping all four quarters,” said teammate Chuck Hayes. “He’s a warrior. He’s everything to this team. The guy gives it his all. We just feed off him.”

Oh, and there was that hook shot.

A game-sealing drive and a little hook over Garnett that gave Toronto a six-point lead with about 70 seconds left was the dagger of the game.

If fans thought they hadn’t seen it before that’s because, well, he’s never tried it before.

“I think that’s the first time this year in a game. I did it in practice like, once,” he said. “It’s something I work on in the summer time, I’m being honest.

“It happened to come to a situation where it was needed, Kevin Garnett is six-foot-11 and he’s a guy who can block shots and I felt like that was a shot I could go to. I felt I was going to make it . . . I took the shot to be aggressive. It looked good, it felt good.”
That basket was just the crowning point on a stunning finish to basically salvage their season. Knowing a loss would put them in a 3-1 hole and all but doom them to first-round elimination, the Raptors held the Nets to 6-for-17 shooting from the field with six turnovers in the fourth quarter and didn’t allow Brooklyn to score a single point in the five minutes, ending the game on an 8-0 run.
“That’s us,” said DeMar DeRozan. “We’re definitely resilient and we’re not going to give up until the game is over.”

That Lowry was even in the game for all of the last five minutes with the five fouls is a testament to his growth and maturity, which he seems to be passing on to his teammates. It was, quite simply, the most important stretch of the season for the team. Led by its foul-plagued point guard, the job got done.