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Lewenberg: Raptors dodge bullet as Lowry avoids serious injury

Josh Lewenberg, TSN 1050
3/17/2014 6:34:40 PM
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TORONTO - As Kyle Lowry was tended to, lying motionless on the floor after being kneed in the head, not once but twice, the Raptors' fate hung in the balance alongside him.

It turned out to be the longest minute of the season for a team that has come to rely so heavily on the resolve of its tough-as-nails point guard.

Lowry, sixth in the NBA in win shares (an estimated number of wins a player produces for his team), has been the Raptors' most indispensable player. What would they do without him?

Luckily, that's a quandary they need not concern themselves with.

Although Lowry was a spectator in practice Monday, less than 15 hours after getting inadvertently trampled by P.J. Tucker, scrambling for a loose ball late in Sunday's loss to the Phoenix Suns, he was relieved to deliver promising news.

"It was a really powerful blow, but I'm okay," said Lowry, who was cleared by team doctors earlier that morning, showing no signs or symptoms of a concussion or serious head injury. "Luckily, we have great doctors and a great staff and they checked everything out and everything came back clear, so I'm fine."

Sitting out of practice with flu-like symptoms that had been bothering him before Sunday's game, Lowry said he was still feeling ill, but the headaches he complained about the night prior had dissipated.

The Raptors did their due diligence in clearing Lowry and carefully made that apparent to those that had questioned their process after the point guard remained in Sunday's game.

"It's a huge issue and it should be," Casey said, speaking on the severity of head injuries in professional sport. "Teams are very sensitive to that, when they're questioned whether they are going by protocol because it's a huge deal." 

Scott McCullough, head athletic trainer, first tested Lowry for signs of a concussion while he was lying on the floor and then again after he was helped up and over to the bench during the timeout. Had he showed symptoms - such as disorientation, lack of coordination or nausea - the Raptors would have been compelled to pull him from the game and take him to the "quiet room", per league concussion policy.

"Our guys went through the protocol, they checked his eyes," Casey continued. "He was deemed okay to go back into the game."

Down nine with 96 seconds to go, Lowry - a fierce, and in some cases hardheaded competitor - was determined to power through.

"I put myself back into that game," he said. "They weren't going to take me out of that game. [McCullough] did his protocol on the bench and he checked me out and I was good to go, so that's all that matters."

Lowry was tested twice more by team doctor Howard Petroff following the game and then again Monday morning, given a clean bill of health.

Averaging career-highs of 17.2 points and 7.9 assists per game, Lowry has not missed a game this season and intends on playing Tuesday in Atlanta.

What would it take for Lowry to sit out?

"Being dead," he joked. "Not being able to walk."

"I mean, I'm always going to try to go out there and fight for my teammates and try to win the game, no matter what the situation is. At that point I felt like we still had a chance to win. Me, I'm never going to sit out because of a little bump to the head."

Clinging to a half game lead over Chicago for the East's third seed and a three-and-a-half game cushion on Brooklyn for top spot in the division with 17 contests to go, the Raptors need all hands on deck. Despite the improved play of backup point guard Greivis Vasquez, Lowry's all-around contributions would be the toughest the replace.

"I'm happy as heck that he's okay," Casey said. "It's huge because we're already down an important piece in our second unit with Patrick (Patterson) and to lose Kyle would be tough."

Patterson was absent from practice Monday afternoon, having his sprained right elbow re-evaluated at the time. He is expected to accompany the team on their upcoming two-game road trip, a back-to-back in Atlanta and New Orleans, though his status is uncertain.

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