Miami coach Spoelstra knew he wanted Lowry when Raptors bounced Heat in 2016 playoffs
It’s been seven years, but Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra isn’t forgetting his only career matchup against the Toronto Raptors in the postseason.
Spoelstra ranks fifth all-time in playoff wins by a coach, but Kyle Lowry and the Toronto Raptors bested the 2016 Miami Heat 4-3 in the Eastern Conference semifinals en route to their first appearance in franchise history in the Conference Finals.
And speaking to reporters today about how that series went, Spoelstra admitted it was a key factor in the team’s decision to eventually target Lowry in a sign-and-trade in the summer of 2021.
“One of the reasons why we went after Kyle in free agency was because of our respect for him, what he’s done in the playoffs. And then, from a personal standpoint, the battle that we had in the seven-game series. I still can’t get over that,” Spoelstra said via CBS Sports’ James Herbert.
In Game 7 against Miami, Lowry scored 35 points and added seven rebounds, nine assists and four steals. Toronto would end up facing the LeBron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers, who played four seasons under Spoelstra — winning two titles — before heading back to his first NBA franchise before the 2014-15 season.
“That was a series I thought we were in control of, and we had an opportunity to win and advance to the Eastern Conference Finals — we wanted to face Cleveland more than anything — and Kyle, in the moments of truth in that series, he really was the difference-maker. Particularly in that Game 7,” Spoelstra added.
Erik Spoelstra says he “still can’t get over” the Heat’s loss against the Raptors in the 2016 playoffs, and Kyle Lowry’s performance in that series is one of the reasons Miami wanted him pic.twitter.com/J5OVNqyuli
— James Herbert (@outsidethenba) May 1, 2023
Overall, Lowry averaged 23.4 points, 5.9 assists and 5.4 rebounds in seven games for the Raptors versus the Heat that series.
Though Toronto would ultimately fall to Cleveland in a hard-fought six-game series, Lowry’s performance that year is often cited as one of the reasons why he’s viewed by many as the greatest player to wear a Raptors uniform.