To say Kyle Lowry has spent the season in games’ biggest moments deferring stands as an understatement for the Miami Heat.
Going into Tuesday night’s game against the visiting Boston Celtics, the veteran point guard not only stands sixth on the roster in fourth-quarter scoring average, behind teammates such as Max Strus and Victor Oladipo, but also just barely ahead of two-way player Jamal Cain.
That’s what made Sunday’s decisive fourth quarter in the victory over the visiting New Orleans Pelicans so heartening.
Over a span of 1 minute, 42 seconds, with the Heat with a shaky two-point lead, Lowry scored nine consecutive Heat points, a catalog of seemingly all the possibilities of the 36-year-old former All-Star.
“He just went vintage there,” coach Erik Spoelstra said.
That he did.
— 3:30 to play: 26-foot, step-back 3-point basket.
— 2:27 left: five-foot driving bank shot.
— 1:46 to go: driving layup.
— 1:21 remaining: 18-foot pull-up shot.
For a player who entered averaging 2.8 points in fourth quarters this season, who had not scored more than seven points in his three previous appearances and had not scored in double figures in six of his previous eight, it was a reminder of what was and potentially could be again.
“Adaptability,” Lowry said, “is one thing that you’ve got to continue to do in this league and that’s what I’m doing right now. [Sunday] was one of those nights where I had to be a little more aggressive and assertive.”
There have been dual balancing acts for Lowry both this season and in recent weeks. With Tyler Herro added to the starting lineup, it has left Lowry more as a facilitator for Herro, Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo. Then there is the ongoing treatment he has taken on his right knee, which has included intervention by the team’s medical staff.
“It’s an adjustment,” Lowry said of his uneven second season with the team. “It doesn’t matter at the end of the day. It’s about winning basketball games and doing it together.”
What Spoelstra said made Lowry’s Sunday fourth quarter so significant is that prodding wasn’t needed. Rather, a veteran point guard sizing up a challenge.
“For this particular stretch, that last few minutes, he read that intuitively,” Spoelstra said. “Anytime we were trying to make a pass, they were getting a deflection or a steal. So it was more, get to an action, and let’s get a shot on goal. And I think he felt that, he understood that.
“Now, going forward, yes, what we’re trying to do is find a balance where everybody can be aggressive and assertive and we don’t want him to get lost in the sauce.”
Adebayo saw it almost as a reawakening.
“Man,” he said, “you could just see his life grow.”
Herro said it was a break from the norm required at the moment.
“It was good to see,” he said. “Kyle, he can do that at any time he really wants. He’s a seasoned vet. He’s closed many games, a lot of big games, and right now he’s just choosing to defer to me, Bam and Jimmy.
“But there’s plenty of opportunity in front of us where he’ll be able to be aggressive and he knows and we all know he can do that and he’s capable of that.”
If Sunday’s fourth quarter was the start of a revival, there yet could be noise made in the standings.
“Honestly,” Lowry said, “Jimmy was the reason that I was in the pick and roll, he sent the ball and said go make plays. It was one of those nights, it kind of was one of those coverages where I was able to see the floor and take advantage of the opportunity I had.”
So a moment seized, still finding his way alongside Caleb Martin in this season’s reworked lineup.
“Myself and Caleb, we’re kind of guys that we’re ball movers and kind of get Tyler and Bam and Jimmy, make their jobs easier, and I think that’s the thing we’ve continued to try to do,” Lowry said. “Tyler has been really great with the pick-and-roll. Bam has been really good with pocket passes, jump shots. And Jimmy’s Jimmy. So me and Caleb, we’re in there just trying to make those guys’ jobs easier.”