2. OG Anunoby vs. Boston Celtics – Sept. 3, 2020
Go ahead, call me out on my recency bias, but Anunoby’s shot set social media alight, and more importantly, preserved the Raptors’ chances at a repeat.
After missing out on the Raptors’ run to the Finals last season due to surgery on his appendix, Anunoby slotted into the starting lineup in the spot that Kawhi Leonard held just a year ago. While not the other-worldly talent that Leonard is, he might just have his number in stoicism.
Down 0-2 to the Boston Celtics in their second round series, the Raptors entered Game 3 in desperation mode. Down 10 at the half, the leaders of the team took over.
Lowry’s back probably hurts all the time anyway from taking so many charges, but in the second half of Game 3, it hurt from carrying the team. He ended the night with a game-high 31 points.
Meanwhile, coach Nick Nurse was up to his mad scientist ways again. He threw every defensive look under the sun at the C’s, including but not limited to the box-and-one, the 1-3-1 and multiple different zones.
Every time, it seemed like Boston countered. Small, quick and fluid, Kemba Walker, Jayson Tatum and crew matched every Raptor run with a run of their own. Toronto was able to string together a couple of baskets late in the contest to tie the game, but with half a second left, Walker drew four Raptor defenders, leaving Daniel Theis wide open under the rim to slam home what looked to be the game-winning dunk, as the Celtics took the lead, 103-101.
Theis’ slam was so convincing that CP24 even ran with it, broadcasting to their viewers that the Raptors had lost Game 3 before the final buzzer had sounded.
After the Theis dunk, the Raptors called a timeout to advance the ball. Timeouts work both ways though, and the stoppage allowed Boston coach Brad Stevens to tell the 7’5 Tacko Fall to take his tent-like tracksuit off and get ready to come into the game.
As Lowry took the ball in anticipation of the inbounds, a shadow was cast over him. Instead of protecting the rim (the Raptors only needed a two to force overtime), Fall’s assignment was to guard the pass. Lowry’s job just became the hardest on the court.
With the vision of Tom Brady and the touch of Peyton Manning, Lowry lofted a pass over Fall across the court to Anunoby. Knowing that he had to catch it and get rid of it ASAP, the native of London, England caught the ball at chest level and scissor-kicked into the air to gain the power necessary to get it to the rim. As Jaylen Brown flew past, Anunoby danced as if he had the ball on a string, slightly contorting his body to have his follow-through account for the abnormal motion he made to get the shot up.
Even Leonard celebrated his buzzer-beater, but as the ball rattled in and through, Anunoby walked stone-faced towards his bench, as if this was a third quarter in mid-January and coach Nurse had just called a timeout. As he was subsequently mobbed by his teammates, the Indiana product let a small smile creep onto his face.