They sat about three metres from each other in the corner of the locker room, ice bags cooling various joints, another NBA game blaring on a hand-held device — the two leaders of the team, the two difference-makers on the night.

Kyle Lowry, who couldn’t make a shot to save his soul, had perhaps saved a 99-93 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers when he drew a charge on Kyrie Irving in the dying seconds.

He wore a look of satisfaction matched only by that on the visage of DeMar DeRozan, who’d anticipated a cross-lane pass that he intercepted in another game-saving defensive moment.

The two big guns, the two big scorers, the two best offensive players on the team had gone all defensive to help Toronto pull out another victory.

“Those are winning plays,” said Lowry. “Those defensive plays are deflation plays for the opposition. They’re ‘Ah man, we almost had it’ and it’s definitely fun to step up for the team in those situations.
“DeMar’s play was an unbelievable play. He was like a free safety out there and he got the steal.”

DeRozan did manage to score 33 points on the night — another “quiet” 30-plus game if ever there was one — but he knew what he’d done defensively was more important.

He said he’d remembered the Cavaliers running the same play successfully a couple of times when the teams met last Friday and was ready for it.

“I was Richard Sherman tonight, just trying to read the defence,” he said. “We played them a couple days ago and we understand their tendencies. That’s one play they got us on last game and I kind of caught it earlier when they ran it and as soon as Kyrie (Irving) went off the screen up top and the big pops I knew they were going to it.”

The Raptors needed the late-game stops, along with some clutch free throw shooting by DeRozan and a huge three-pointer from Terrence Ross, because they hadn’t looked particularly sharp most of the night and allowed the undermanned Cavaliers to hang around too long.