TORONTO — Seven seasons into his tenure with the Toronto Raptors, Nick Nurse continues to marvel at particularly crafty Kyle Lowry moments.
The Raptors coach can rattle off numerous game-clinching plays by his star point guard. In Toronto's 118-112 win in New York on Friday, Lowry creeped behind Julius Randle on an inbounds play to steal a Bobby Portis pass. His fourth steal of the night prevented the Knicks from potentially tying the game.
"It was actually a play we ran a couple of years ago, and he totally sniffed it out and they threw it right to him. But you guys that are here all the time, we are kind of almost used to it," Nurse told reporters on Tuesday night. "But we should talk about how incredible that stuff is. I am constantly amazed at the plays this guy makes away from scoring and assisting, all the charges.
"The ones that I see that nobody ever talks about are I can't believe how many times he rides a 6-10, 250 (pound) guy out of bounds to grab a rebound, at his size. That's going on five times a game, it's unbelievable. And the charges, and the hustle plays, and then the game-winning plays — and I appreciate it, I know that, we see it a lot, but it should be talked about and again I think that's his greatness."
Nurse's glowing praise came moments before Lowry guided Toronto to a 130-114 win over Atlanta, and passed Jose Calderon to become the team's all-time leader in assists.
The 33-year-old Lowry is a five-time NBA all-star, but wasn't voted in as a starter for this year's annual showcase game. The reserves, which are voted on by the league's head coaches, will be announced on Friday. The benches are filled with three frontcourt players, two backcourt players, and two wildcard picks.
Some online mock drafts either listed Lowry on the bubble, or not on the roster at all.
Nurse could only shake his head at the thought of Lowry, who helped the Raptors win an historic NBA championship in June, possibly not being one of them.
"If that guy's not on an all-star ballot considering the last 18 months, the last six months, and where our team is, that's unfathomable to me," Nurse said. "And (if) anybody that has decent knowledge of the game or the NBA would keep him off, it wouldn't make sense to me, it wouldn't make any sense to me at all.
"Not even close. Not even close to me, so . . . why're we talking about this?" he added, with mock grumpiness.
Nurse, who worked closely with Lowry in his five seasons as an assistant before he replaced Dwane Casey as head coach, said he didn't immediately see all the intangibles Lowry brings with his high basketball IQ.
"But he competes, if you want to list a whole lot of skills that make guys good, or if you're drafting people, picking guys for your team or whatever, guys who compete (he) has got to be up there really high, and he wins, right? He wins," Nurse said. "He's been out there with a lot of different groups of guys over the last seven years and he's been one of the constants. And the record looks the same almost every year."
Lowry's teammates cheered wildly on the bench when the veteran guard dished to Terence Davis for the record-breaking assist in the fourth quarter. Former longtime Raptor Vince Carter met Lowry at halfcourt and gave the guard a huge hug.
"Kyle's a great guy, a great friend. Somebody I talk to frequently . . . we play a lot of golf in the summer when we can and all throughout the season we keep in touch, it's a pretty cool relationship," Carter said of Lowry. "He was the opponent but I was darn happy to see him accomplish that goal. . . . I'll talk junk to him later about it."
Nurse was asked whether Lowry was particularly driven on Tuesday because of any potential all-star snub.
"I just think he just really enjoys his teammates and competing and playing and there just isn't too many times out there when he doesn't really show that he loves to play ball, loves the game," the coach said. "That's all I think it is, he just goes out there and he's having more fun than most guys were out there (Tuesday) which was good."
Nurse could find himself on another all-star bench. The team in the East with the best record behind Milwaukee through games on Feb. 2 will coach. Toronto moved ahead of Miami into second in the East with Tuesday's win. Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer is ineligible because he served as a head coach in last year's game.
Nurse was an assistant with Casey's staff at the 2018 all-star game.
This year's all-star festivities are Feb. 14-16 in Chicago.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 29, 2020.
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Lori Ewing, The Canadian Press