Maybe it was the excellent bounce pass to Tyler Hansbrough for an easy bucket.

Perhaps it was finding a trailing Terrence Ross for a critical three-pointer.

It might have been the put-back basket off a Patrick Patterson air ball with the game still not decided.
Or it could have been the second offensive rebound where he snuck in among the bigs to corral a miss and give his team a vital extra possession.

Pick one and it was the handiwork of Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry, whose masterful fourth quarter led Toronto to a 108-101 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans at the Air Canada Centre on Monday night, an important win in the days leading up to this weekend’s NBA all-star break.

Lowry, who finished with 19 points, 12 assists and seven rebounds, was the calm and steadying influence the team needed down the stretch of a game that more ebbs and flows than it should have because Toronto couldn’t seem to protect any lead with myriad lineups brought on by the absence of starting power forward Amir Johnson.

“He got some huge rebounds for us in that situation, defensively he had some good reads,” coach Dwane Casey said of Lowry, who dominated the final nine minutes with six of his points, four of his assists and two big offensive boards in that period.

Lowry needed to bail his teammates out because an unfamiliar second unit kept give back whatever gains the starters made.

Patrick Patterson made a seamless transition to starter in place of Johnson with a season-high 22 points but the trickle down effect was significant because Casey couldn’t find an effective second group. The starters got out to big leads in both the first and third quarters but they were never sustained until Lowry went to work in the final nine minutes.

“Here’s a guy who played 39 minutes,” Casey said of Lowry. “DeMar (DeRozan) played 40 minutes. Over the long haul, that’s just too many minutes so we have to have other people step up and give us something in those minutes where we’re not losing those leads and not closing out quarters.”

Without Johnson, the Raptors were robbed of one of their most energetic big men and given that they’d been manhandled in the paint in losses to the Los Angeles Clippers and Sacramento Kings to end a western road trip last week, trouble was lurking.