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Miami Heat guard Kyle Lowry turns back the clock against the New York Knicks

Even after 17 seasons in the NBA, ‘when you need him most, that’s when he’s going to show up.’ The veteran guard did just that in Game 1.

NEW YORK — Seventeen seasons into his NBA career, the current version of Kyle Lowry is not going to pass anybody’s eye test. He’s short, he lacks quickness and he’s well past the days of that 2006 draft profile that claimed he was “capable of playing above the rim.”

If Lowry showed up for your local Saturday morning rec run, if the players didn’t know who he was, there’s a good chance he might not get picked.

But guard Lowry, limited to just 55 games this season for the Miami Heat due to injuries, apparently dipped his toes into the fountain of youth in Sunday’s 108-101 win over the New York Knicks with a solid game: 18 points, 5 rebounds, 6 assists and 4 blocks.

Suddenly, a Knicks team that thought the clearest path to getting past the eighth-seeded Heat was to limit and contain forward Jimmy Butler, now finds itself having to game-plan for Lowry among other Miami players going into Tuesday’s now must-win Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.

“He’s a champion,” Butler said of Lowry during his courtside interview following Sunday’s win. “He’s been doing a great job for us since he’s been here. He’s one of the engines that helps us go.”

Miami Heat guard Kyle Lowry (center) shoots during Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the New York Knicks on April 30 at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

The scoring impact from Lowry in Game 1 — 10 of his 18 points came in the fourth quarter —was not a complete surprise from a guy who, in his prime, was a six-time NBA All-Star and an NBA champion (2019 with the Toronto Raptors).

The shocker was that Lowry was credited with four blocks, a complete head-scratcher for a player not known in recent years for his lift (he hasn’t had a dunk since a putback slam in the 2015 All-Star Game). Lowry and Kevin McHale are the only players to come off the bench of an NBA playoff game to record 15 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists and 4 blocks, according to StatMuse.

It’s all part of the DNA that’s allowed Lowry to play an extended career: a scrappy player who always seems to be in the right place at the right time.

“He’s an absolute warrior, he’s been able to do some amazing things even on one leg this year,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said of Lowry. “And when you need him most, that’s when he’s going to show up. This is all that Kyle wants at this point in his career, these kind of opportunities in the playoffs to have a chance to hopefully win some games.”

Lowry was willing and able to step up to provide a better chance to win for the Heat, who looked to be in trouble when Butler went down for an extended period after spraining his ankle with just over five minutes left in the game.

His contributions after Butler’s injury included two blocks on layup attempts by Immanuel Quickley and RJ Barrett, and a timely midrange jump shot over Quickley that extended Miami’s lead to 104-94 with 2:53 left. The jumper silenced a star-studded crowd that included New York Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers, comedian Chris Rock, singer Joe Jonas and rapper Jack Harlow.

“This place was amazing. It was electric and as a basketball player you want to play in this type of atmosphere,” Lowry said. “I’ve been in this league 17 years and I’ve been in big moments, I’ve been in low moments, I’ve been in the bubble, I’ve been in a situation where you got no fans. Just being able to stay levelheaded the whole time is amazing.”

It’s a credit that Lowry has remained levelheaded even as his non-basketball body made him the butt of social media jokes with this photo from Getty Images resurfacing on Sunday:

Miami Heat guard Kyle Lowry (left) greets center Udonis Haslem (right) before the game against the Boston Celtics during Game 5 of the NBA Eastern Conference finals on May 25, 2022, at FTX Arena in Miami.

Issac Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images

After Lowry dove in the stands for a loose ball, he landed on Harlow, prompting the rapper to share his thoughts on social media:

That Lowry doesn’t necessarily, at the age of 37, look the part of an elite NBA player matters little to Heat. The Heat’s main concern is that Lowry plays the part.

And he did that in Game 1.

“The veteran experience and presence that we have on the team really helps,” Spoelstra said. “And Kyle is one of those guys.”

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.