Kyle Lowry hits the heights with 43 points, but celebration cut short

TORONTO -- Trying to play it cool in the wake of one of the greatest moments of his career, Kyle Lowry went straight Bill Belichick.

"We're moving on to Detroit," Lowry said with a straight face, in reference to the Raptors' next game, after his Toronto Raptors upended the Cleveland Cavaliers 99-97 after a furious fourth-quarter comeback Friday night. "It's just a win."

The Raptors do not have a storied history or much of an inventory of unforgettable moments outside the Vince Carter early years file. As such, it was not much of a stretch to say Lowry's 43 points, a career high, against the Cavs rank as one of the greatest shows in team history.

Lowry's stepback jumper over Matthew Dellavedova with 3.8 seconds left, the winning points, was unequivocally one of the best moments of Lowry's career. It was his first game winner since he tipped one in at the buzzer when he was at Villanova. It was a moment to celebrate under any circumstances. If Lowry did so, though, it was in private.

"I will maybe enjoy it for a few minutes," Lowry said.

Here is why.

There isn't a day or so that goes by in which the Raptors don't remind themselves of the past two seasons. Their first-round playoff exits, despite home-court advantage, hang over them like a cloud, amplified by the two Atlantic Division banners hanging above their bench that can feel like a needless, pointless taunt.

As masterful as Lowry was Friday -- his relentless attacking and aggression wore the Cavs' defenders out -- it only briefly covered up the sting of his wilting a year ago. He refuses to let the way his body betrayed him with back and leg injuries be driven from his mind. Lowry was almost helpless in his team's four-game sweep by the Washington Wizards last year. Injuries or no, it is a black stain on his record that doesn't easily come off.

That's what inspired him to report to this season in tremendous shape, and it is what won't allow him to accept February success as anything but that.

"I know this sounds boring, and you're going to get tired of hearing it," Lowry said. "But we have to just focus on the process. We've been here before."

Lowry has twice taken down the Cavs this season. Back in November, he scored six points and had two assists in the final five minutes of a quality win. In this one, with DeMar DeRozan and Cory Joseph battling illness and DeMarre Carroll recovering from knee surgery, the Raptors appeared to be toast without Lowry. They were almost toast anyway; the Cavs held the lead for most of the first 44 minutes.

For the Cavs, it was infuriating to watch, with Lowry getting to the line 15 times and thoroughly outplaying Kyrie Irving, who had just 10 points and one assist.

"We've got to get somebody who can guard him," Cavs coach Tyronne Lue said.

Or at least a better scheme for him. Despite the Raptors' having only one other real offensive option in Terrence Ross (DeRozan was woefully off his game), the Cavs did little to pressure Lowry. They let him have an iso on the game winner.

Lowry, however, will point out that the previous time these teams played, the Cavs won by 22 and Irving got the better of Lowry that night (Toronto is 18-3 since that loss). Then he'll tell you the Raptors' winning the regular-season series against the Cavs 2-1 doesn't carry over to a possible postseason series.

"I've had a million games like that, but what does it mean if you come back and stub your toe in the next game? Nothing. Zero," Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. "That's why you don't put all your eggs in one basket for that night because you have a lot of basketball to be played."

It did feel as if the Raptors were deflecting credit a little too much. The only laughter in the postgame locker room came when Jonas Valanciunas donned a hospital mask when DeRozan, who admitted he might be contagious, dressed to go home.

But it's hard not to admit the strategy has its purpose. This team hasn't done anything yet, and this little slice of glory was just that. All the party pooping, they seem to hope, will eventually change the story on this franchise.

At least, that's Lowry's story, and he's sticking to it.

"I don't think I'll even watch the replays tonight," Lowry said. "My kids will be asleep, and when they go to sleep, I go to sleep."