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NBA scores 2016: Kyle Lowry carries Toronto past Cleveland all by himself

Lowry lit up on Friday for a career high and a game-winning shot that puts the Raptors just two games back for the No. 1 seed.

John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

That there was ever a time where Kyle Lowry was nearly traded away from the Raptors seems unfathomable now, especially after Toronto's captain dropped a career-high 43 points and the game-winning jumper in a 99-97 win against the Cleveland Cavaliers. DeMar DeRozan may be The Man, but Lowry is the Beating Heart. And on Friday, he was everything else, too.

The race for the Eastern Conference's No. 1 seed appears closer than it actually is. Cleveland leads by just two games, but they don't lose frequently and have a slightly easier schedule in the season's closing months. Still, Toronto winning on Friday provides intrigue to the playoff race that hadn't existed before. And certainly, regardless of where the two squads fall at the end of the year, odds are good that they'll be meeting in the Eastern Conference Finals.

If that plays to fruition, give us seven games. Damn, make Game 7 go for three overtimes. The Raptors and the Cavaliers don't play gorgeous basketball or have the sharpest execution, but it's exciting as hell. Both teams are gritty and physical, but with stars that can rise over the noise and over any level of defense to deliver run-stopping jumpers or game-sealing shots. The final half of the fourth quarter will attest to that.

Down 91-82, the Raptors were on the verge of losing control of the game. Of course, it's Lowry having Toronto's back, scoring five straight points and cutting into the edge as Toronto scraped together stops on the other end. Minutes later, he hit free throws to put the Raptors ahead, only to see Kevin Love tie it back up with a three and put Cleveland ahead with foul shots. Back to Lowry, now, like a pendulum inevitably swinging back. He tied it with a shot in the lane, then followed it up with the one that settled the game for good.

But Lowry was sensational throughout the game, not just at the end. His 43 points came on 15-of-20 shooting and only two turnovers, while he dished nine assists and snared four steals on top of all that. At one point, DeRozan was questionable to return with flu-like symptoms, and he finished with just six points on 1-of-11 shooting. All the pressure and subsequently all the spotlights fell on Lowry, and in his arena, his city, standing up for his team, repping for his teammates, Lowry wasn't -- couldn't -- let them down.

His reaction here tells it all.

2 other things from Friday

Kemba Walker saves Charlotte

A seven-point run capped by Monta Ellis' fourth field goal put Indiana ahead by a point with seconds left in the game, where it looked like Indiana might escape with a pivotal win in the Eastern Conference playoff landscape. But nah. Come on, now. This is just what Kemba Walker does.

The win puts the Hornets just a game back of Indiana and vaults them into the No. 7 seed in the East, where the No. 3 through No. 9 seeds are all separated by just four and a half games in total. Walker's in the midst of his best season ever and he has a knack for nailing buckets like these -- there's no doubt Charlotte is in this position hugely thanks to him this year.

The Mavericks come back from down 23 points

Dallas played an abysmal first half on their home court, enough that they received a small smattering of boos going into a timeout early in the second quarter. But as the Mavericks tend to do, they somehow salvaged the game, coming back first in the third quarter to snare a two-point lead and, after losing it again, surging back with minutes to go in the fourth quarter to force overtime. Thanks to the extra period, they snuck away with a 122-116 win, the sixth-largest comeback in franchise history.

Zaza Pachulia didn't play after halftime, and the poor fit of the Mavericks' starting center is becoming more and more apparent as the season plays out. It has never really been great, particularly for Chandler Parsons, a player who is reliant on a strong pick-and-roll man to bring out the very best in his game. Small ball with Dirk Nowitzki at center isn't a particularly viable option either, not with the extra pounding his 37-year-old body would take and with the defensive lapses he and Parsons playing four would create. But on Friday, small ball was the only way they could figure out Denver's athletes, and it won't be the last time that happens.

Chris Paul's late night explosion

CP3 did the heavy lifting in the Clippers' 117-107 win against the Sacramento Kings on Friday, dropping 40 points, 13 assists, eight rebounds and just two turnovers while reaffirming his title as point god. The Kings stuck around for a good while, but when Paul is doing things like this, what were they even supposed to do?

Play of the night

Even Stephen Curry would be impressed by this. (Although let's be honest, give Curry three attempts and he'll nail this shot, too.)

3 fun things

Only one team can beat the Warriors, and it's Andrew Bogut's middle school squad

DeMarcus Cousins is playing the wrong sport. SWITCH TO DODGEBALL.

Ish Smith, of all people, clowned on John Wall.

Final scores

Hornets 96, Pacers 95 (At the Hive recapIndy Cornrows recap)

Wizards 103, 76ers 94 (Bullets Forever recapLiberty Ballers recap)

Knicks 108, Magic 95 (Posting & Toasting recapOrlando Pinstriped Post recap)

Raptors 99, Cavaliers 97 (Raptors HQ recapFear the Sword recap)

Hawks 103, Bulls 88 (Peachtree Hoops recapBlog a Bull recap)

Mavericks 122, Nuggets 116 OT (Mavs Moneyball recapDenver Stiffs recap)

Clippers 117, Kings 107 (Clips Nation recapSactown Royalty recap)

Grizzlies 112, Lakers 95 (Grizzly Bear Blues recapSilver Screen & Roll recap)