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Lewenberg: Raps rally around fallen DeRozan in win over Nets

Josh Lewenberg, TSN 1050
1/28/2014 1:12:33 AM
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BROOKLYN - With the NFL's self-proclaimed best cornerback sitting courtside, Patrick Patterson came up with a timely interception.

"Patrick looked like Richard Sherman out there with that steal," said Kyle Lowry, who may have set a franchise record for most post-game fist pumps after Patterson picked off an inbound pass and drained the winning jump shot moments later.

For the first time in nearly two years, the Raptors were without DeMar DeRozan, as their leading scorer watched on from Toronto, nursing a recently sprained left ankle.

Not even 10 minutes after the final buzzer - Toronto defeating the red-hot Brooklyn Nets 104-103 Monday evening - Lowry had already spoken with his injured teammate, via FaceTime. The conversation went as follows:

"I can't tell you [what he said]," Lowry informed the enquiring media.

Lowry, in the middle of a career season, was all smiles after what may have been his best game as a Raptor. The win and the vindicating feeling that accompanied it in the Raptors' locker room were nearly stolen from them.

With 19 seconds remaining and the Nets up one, Lowry drove into Deron Williams, a moving target, and was whistled for an offensive foul. The controversial call, made by official Violet Palmer, was the latest in a series of questionable whistles. Lowry, along with coach Dwane Casey, was understandably irate.

"It's her call," Lowry said after the game. "She made a great call, I mean that's her call. Hey, she called it."

You can read between the lines.

Down by three after Paul Pierce sunk a pair of free throws, John Salmons extended the game with a quick layup, leading to an inbound play that the Raptors were prepared for.

"We knew exactly what they were going to run," Casey said, crediting the team's scouting staff. "Our defence was set."

No excuses.

They were missing their best player and on the road against an opponent that had won 10 of 11 games in the New Year, their only loss coming to Toronto. The officials were doing them no favours, but this, of course, is a very different Raptors team than the one that would cower in these very situations.

Patterson's first instinct after swiping Williams's inbound pass was to find Lowry, a wise decision, and the Raptors' point guard set him up for the winning 12-footer, less than a minute after he air-balled a three-pointer.

Patterson started the game wearing a face-mask to protect his broken nose, but by the second half, he had tossed it away. He was putting it all out on the line, in more ways than one, when he made the biggest play of the night.

"You know me," Patterson joked. "Richard Sherman, Ed Reed, we're all in the same category."

Sherman and the rest of the NFC champion Seattle Seahawks were in attendance for what turned out to be a playoff-type battle between two teams vying for top spot in the Atlantic.

In a game that saw 18 lead changes and nine ties, the Raptors extended their cushion in the division to two and a half games. They're still the only team to defeat Brooklyn in the calendar year.

"It's a division game, I think everyone knew how big the game was for us," said Lowry, who took his game to another level in the absence of DeRozan, scoring 31 points to go along with seven assists and five steals. "For me personally I just wanted to try to do my best to keep my guys and keep our team together no matter what happened and try to win the game."

DeRozan, who sustained his injury in Saturday's loss to the Clippers, had missed just eight games in his four-and-a-half-year career prior to sitting out on Monday. There's no timetable for his recovery and, while his teammates anxiously await his return, they're not relying on it.

Often, you can learn a lot about a team and its players when a significant cog is removed. The lesson on this night; the Raptors have an array of viable weapons and Lowry has become their heart and soul.

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