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Kyle Lowry is fully decompressed

Oh, it’s a series now!

For Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowry, it’s been a postseason of extremes.

He walked off the court late in the first half of Game 2 against the Cleveland Cavaliers last week, saying he needed to “decompress.” There was aimless dribbling in the previous round against the Miami Heat, where he seemed fearful of attempting a shot. And he opened the postseason against Indiana in the first round, putting up some of the worst shooting numbers—31 percent—in playoff history.

In each series, he appeared to be a broken man. In each series, he’d bounce back and the Raptors would advance.

Just a few days ago, this conference finals series appeared like it would be a sweep. Now it’s a three-game series. And the best backcourt among the final four teams is on an NBA team playing in a hockey town north of the border.

Mainly because of Lowry.

He had 35 points on 70 percent shooting, along with five rebounds and five assists in last night’s 105-99 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers. His ability to match up with Cavaliers forward LeBron James as the Raptors made a late run in the fourth quarter was also key.

“It’s a cakewalk for me when [Lowry] gets going,” guard DeMar DeRozan, who had 12 of his 32 points in the fourth quarter, told reporters after the game. “It opens up everything.”

Their 67 points is the most that Lowry and DeRozan have combined for in their four years as teammates, but the reasons for the win go well beyond the All-Star duo. Backup center Bismack Biyombo, for example, grabbed a game-high 14 rebounds and blocked three shots.

The now vulnerable Cavaliers return to Cleveland with many questions. What happened to forward Kevin Love, who missed 10 of his 14 shots and didn’t get off the bench in the fourth quarter after tweaking his ankle? Where was point guard Kyrie Irving in the fourth quarter, when he managed just three points? And why didn’t James go down into the post and punish the Raptors when he was defended by the much smaller Lowry late in the game?

The Raptors have now proven they can play with the Cavs. To win the series, they have to get at least one on the road. That’s likely to be determined by Lowry’s ability to balance his road and home efforts: In Toronto’s two losses in Cleveland, Lowry has shot 28.5 percent from the field; in the two home wins he shot 63.6 percent.

“He’s like a little pitbull,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said of Lowry. “Throughout the playoffs, everybody second-guessed him. And he’s always bounced back.”

Jerry Bembry is a senior writer at Andscape. His bucket list items include being serenaded by Lizz Wright and watching the Knicks play a MEANINGFUL NBA game in June.