NBA DAILY DRIBBLE: Lowry returns to lead the Raptors back to the top of the standings

NBA results: January 7, 2019

Brooklyn Nets (117) – Chicago Bulls (100)

LA Lakers (86) – Minnesota Timberwolves (108)

Orlando Magic (96) – LA Clippers (106)

Miami Heat (82) – Atlanta Hawks (106)

Washington Wizards (116) – OKC Thunder (98)

Indiana Pacers (105) – Toronto Raptors (121)

Charlotte Hornets (119) – Phoenix Suns (113)

Three things that happened in the NBA today:

1. Lowry leads Leonard-less Raptors

Two months into the season and the Raptors are still treating Kawhi Leonard delicately. He’s playing without a minutes restriction and has played some back-to-backs already. But after playing nearly 40 minutes and going toe-to-toe with the Greek Freak yesterday, Toronto decided to give Leonard a much-deserved rest.

Unfortunately, after facing the top team in the East, the Raptors were scheduled to face the third-seeded Pacers. It was already going to be a tough match-up, but with Leonard out, the game became even more difficult.

Thankfully, Kyle Lowry returned from injury to boost the Raptors. The Raptors’ lead guard has been out for the last six games due to a back injury. He also missed four games before the last stretch of six games. He looked rusty to start the game but eventually found his groove in the second quarter when the Raptors began to pull away from the Pacers.

Lowry finished with 12 points, eight assists and three steals.

More than the numbers, Lowry’s leadership stabilized the Raptors in the middle quarters. After a high-scoring first quarter for both teams, Lowry came in and led the team to a double-digit lead in the second quarter. Also playing a big role in that push was Norman Powell. He scored a team-high 23 off the bench, including a steal and breakaway jam and a tough three to push Toronto ahead.

Without Leonard for the game, the Raptors once again flashed their depth as a team. Six other players scored in double-figures for the team to support Lowry and Powell. Serge Ibaka had 18, Danny Green added 15, while Fred Van Vleet and Pascal Siakam scored 12 each. Toronto reclaims the top spot in the league with their 30th win.

2. Timberwolves whoop the Lakers

The Timberwolves were ready for the Lakers and their fans today.

LA was undermanned without LeBron James, Kyle Kuzma and Rajon Rondo. The Wolves handled their business against the hobbled Lakers. Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins were in top form against the Lakers. Both had big numbers and big highlights in the game.

Wiggins scored 25 points in the first half to lead Minnesota to a big, insurmountable lead.

Towns had another monster game with 28 points, 18 rebounds and four blocks. His baptism of JaVale McGee in the second quarter personified the Wolves in this game. They just owned the Lakers the whole game.

This was the type of game, any coach would be proud of. It’s actually quite tragic that Minny’s head coach was fired right after a game like this.

3. Kardiac Kemba is back

We haven’t heard from Kardiac Kemba in the past few weeks. After his incredible stretch in mid-November, Kemba Walker and the Hornets have been pretty chill. Coming off back-to-back losses, the Hornets needed another big moment to snap them out of their winter funk. They got just that when Walker iced the Suns.

With less than 30 seconds left in the game and the Hornets holding on to a one-point lead, Charlotte put the ball in the hands of Walker. He used a screen to get into the lane and then hit DeAndre Ayton with a step back jumper from 10 feet to extend Charlotte’s lead to three.

The Suns couldn’t find the equalizer and Walker sealed the win with an end-game heave that dropped in at the buzzer.

When you’re hot, you’re hot.

Photo from AP