ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Kyle Lowry played for the first time in more than a month, doing so without starting for the first time in more than a decade.
And he doesn’t really care if he starts or not going forward. Winning is far more important to him right now.
The Miami Heat guard, who had missed his team’s last 15 games with left knee soreness, returned to game action at Orlando on Saturday night — coming off the bench. It was his first time playing as a reserve since Jan. 26, 2013.
He logged 36 minutes, way more than the Heat intended, in a 126-114 overtime loss to the Magic. Lowry — who finished with 12 points and was 3 for 6 from 3-point range — had to play big minutes in part because of the OT game, and in part because Tyler Herro was slowed by food poisoning in-game.
“Whatever it takes to get us wins and get us to a situation where we can try to compete at the highest level, whatever that takes I’m all in for,” Lowry said. “So if that’s 15 minutes, 36 minutes, 20 minutes, on the bench, off the bench, we’ve got to figure it out and do whatever it takes for us to win basketball games right now.”
Lowry had started in each of his last 677 regular-season appearances, with 94 playoff games pushing that streak to 771. He checked in for the initial time with 6:21 left in the opening quarter.
“He’s truly excited about getting back out there,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “He’s worked very diligently behind the scenes to prepare for this. I’m excited to have him back in the mix. We could use another spark right now during this stretch run.”
Spoelstra and Lowry have met multiple times about his role going forward.
“I know in my heart I’m a starter,” Lowry said. “But right now, we have to figure out things. Spo and I talked and he wants to make sure I’m healthy and not have a setback. … The great communicator that he is, the great coach that he is, it’s respected.”
Gabe Vincent started at point for Miami, with the Heat running a set play for him to get a layup on their opening possession. The first player off the bench to celebrate that score was Lowry.
He had a wrap on his left knee while waiting to get called upon to go into the game, presumably to just keep loose after warm-ups.
“Veteran guys, experienced guys, highly decorated guys, they all tend to figure it out,” Spoelstra said. “They’re all about winning right now.”
The Heat are holding the No. 7 spot in the Eastern Conference right now, meaning unless they catch someone they’ll be in the play-in tournament to determine the last two playoff spots. They’re three games behind No. 5 Brooklyn and No. 6 New York, with only 13 games left in the regular season.
“We’ve got 13 games,” Lowry said. “Start, no start, we’ve just got to win games.”
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