MILWAUKEE—Kyle Lowry arrived at the arena here Wednesday with a funny looking blue oven mitt thing on his left hand and said he hadn’t really touched a basketball since Sunday, when he banged up his thumb in Game 7 against Philadelphia.
“It’s why we have shootaround,” he said. “Mind over matter on some things, and we’ll tape it up and get it ready to go.”
Seemed to work.
Lowry shrugged off any semblance of discomfort with his thumb or the time it cost him in the gym since the Sixers series ended and came up with a gem here in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference final.
Hitting a career playoff-high seven three-pointers, Lowry had 30 points in Toronto’s 108-100 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks at the Fiserv Forum.
But it was a wasted effort in the end. The Bucks rattled off 10 straight points in the final 21/2 minutes to complete a late-game comeback.
The result will not faze Lowry in the least because the Raptors point guard is not hard-wired to ever get too excited or too crushed, or to read too much into one single basketball game. But given his play — he had seven rebounds to go with his scoring — there will be a feeling of opportunity lost by the Raptors.
Brook Lopez was the difference as the veteran Bucks centre poured in 29 points to lead Milwaukee. Toronto will feel cheated that they lost when they held Giannis Antetokoumpo to just 24 points and wasted a 31-point game from Kawhi Leonard.
Lowry had been held in check during the regular season by the Bucks, averaging a paltry 6.3 points per game on just 23 per cent shooting from the field, brutal numbers for the five-time all-star.
“The one game I missed a lot of shots and they forced (the ball out of my hands) I think Serge (Ibaka) shot like 20-something times that game and that was their game plan. The other couple, I just didn’t play well.
“That stuff doesn’t matter, that’s regular season.”
That’s they way Lowry operates now and forever. He is hugely demonstrative during games, frantically gesturing when things go poorly, exhorting his teammates when games are going well.
But he’s also got the ability to focus solely on the task at hand, to not let defeats of the past rankle him or recent success go to his head.
It was pointed out to him Wednesday morning that he had plenty of post-season run-ins with these Bucks, with Eric Bledsoe and Malcolm Brogdon and George Hill and maybe that would have something to do with Wednesday’s result?
“Nothing,” he said. “It’s a different year, different playoffs, different game. It’s a new series.
“It’s zero-zero in the series and everything’s different. Every game will be different, everything in the past is gone, everything we’ve done, they’ve done doesn’t matter. Now it’s about (Game 1) and get ready to go.”
The Bucks also weren’t going to put too much weight on Lowry’s regular season and had augmented their backcourt defence by the addition of George Hill at the trade deadline. It wasn’t done with Lowry specifically in mind, but it couldn’t hurt.
“I mean, it’s such a small sample size,” Milwaukee coach Mike Budenholzer said before the game. “There’s so many different things that happen in the regular season, it is important. We look at it. We watch the film.
“To be honest with you, I have no idea if what you said is even true. But we’ll continue to guard him and do our best and just see how it goes.”
It didn’t go well against Lowry for the Bucks, but Lopez’s startling production — he took a team-high 21 shots, including 11 three-pointers — was the difference.
The Bucks maintained their grip on homecourt advantage with the win and will remain oddsmaker’s favourites. That, too, doesn’t bother Lowry.
“Nothing matters but getting wins, noting matters about who says what or what happens,” he said. “You gotta go out there and lace ’em up and play basketball. To me, it’s the playoffs, there’s four of us, four teams left, and we’re all pretty good.”
Doug Smith is a sports reporter based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @smithraps