OG Anunoby Shines Despite Raptors Losing Game 2

It’s easy to feel disappointed, frustrated, sad, all of the above after the Toronto Raptors lost Game 2 to the Boston Celtics.

The Raptors had this game within their grasp, up 12 points at one point in the third quarter. Then Marcus Smart and Kemba Walker happened in the fourth quarter, combining for 26 points en route to the 102-99 Celtics victory.

If there is a bright spot from Game 2, it’s Raptor forward OG Anunoby’s performance. Sure, the Raptors lost but it’s hard to not notice Anunoby’s impact on this series.

In Game 2, Anunoby recorded a career playoff-high 20 points with seven rebounds on 7-of-12 shooting from the field (58.3 percent) and 4-of-6 from three (66.7 percent). As per NBA.com, Anunoby recorded just 16 three-point attempts after the first dribble, converting just six of those. He scored 12 points in Game 1, but he played with the confidence and intensity necessary in a bounce-back performance.

OG Anunoby 2019-20 Playoff Hot Zones (via NBA.com)

Looking at Anunoby’s playoff hot zones, it’s evident that he is most comfortable converting shots underneath the basket (60.9 percent shooting his last five games at the center). But what’s impressive is Anunoby’s improvement from the corners. The left side corner from 24+ feet, Anunoby averages 42.9 percent in the playoffs, compared to 38.7 percent in the 2019-20 season. On the right side corner from 24+ feet, Anunoby is 4-of-9 shooting from that spot. The fact he is willing to shoot from those spots demonstrates the improved confidence in his jump shot.

It started in the first quarter in Game 2, with Raptors guard Fred VanVleet kicking it out to Anunoby in the corner. With Jaylen Brown guarding Anunoby, the Raptors forward pump-faked, hesitated then converted the contested three-point shot.

As you can see above, Anunoby once again shows his intelligence to get open in the corner. Raptors center Marc Gasol goes into the paint, drawing the Celtics defenders to him. Walker switched off of VanVleet, allowing Anunoby to get in the corner with no one guarding him. Gasol kicks it out to VanVleet who then swings it to Anunoby. Jayson Tatum tries to close out but Anunoby rightfully fakes then shoots his three-pointer with confidence.

While many Raptors players struggled to finish at the rim in Game 2, Anunoby wasn’t afraid to use his speed to get to the basket. As you can see above, Anunoby sees that Marcus Williams is defending him on the perimeter. Brown doesn’t switch off of Raptors forward Pascal Siakam, meaning Anunoby is going to the rim one-on-one with Williams. The 23-year-old shows no hesitation, using his speed and athleticism to spin away from Williams, creating separation to finish with the layup at the rim.

In addition to his offense, Anunoby demonstrated active hands and feet on defense. From the above clip, you see Walker start at the perimeter with Siakam on him, with Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry and Anunoby standing next to the paint. Walker blows by Siakam but has to pass the ball before getting to the rim, as Serge Ibaka jumped in front of him. Anunoby sees this, switching to defend Williams, allowing him to deflect the Walker pass. Anunoby’s instincts to see the Walker pass enabled the Raptors to get out in transition, leading to the Lowry layup.

Even when the Raptors were down in the fourth quarter, thanks in large part to Smart’s five three-pointers, Anunoby kept the Raptors alive. Anunoby starts in the corner then uses the Lowry screen to attack the basket and get the “and one.”

This isn’t the first time that Anunoby showcased his hustle on both ends of the floor. In the first game in the bubble against the Los Angeles Lakers, Anunoby recorded 23 points. It’s evident Anunoby focused during the pause to improve his offensive abilities, complementing his stout, physical defense. His teammates noticed.

“OG was unbelievable,” Lowry said after the win against the Lakers. “The one thing about OG, man, he’s going to be really good in this league for a long time.”

It also earned the respect of Lakers star player LeBron James.

“Their wings are extremely good,” James said on Anunoby and Siakam. “They won a championship and its not only because of Kawhi.”

Unfortunately on Tuesday, the Raptors lack of team three-point shooting hindered their opportunity to win. The Raptors were 11-of-40 (27.5 percent) compared to the Celtics 15-of-38 (39.5 percent). For the series, the Raptors are 21-of-80 (26.3 percent), with VanVleet and Lowry combining for a measly 6-of-35 (17.1 percent).

Not many teams win games shooting like that.

“We’re pretty pissed right now we’re down 0-2, but we have to go back and look at the film and understand what we’ve done wrong and what we can do better,” Lowry said.  “…This is not a situation we’d like to be in, but you know it’s not a normal situation in the playoffs where we lost two home games. We just lost two games. We got a chance to get enough to get one game. That’s all we gotta do is get one game and take [it] one day, one game at a time and know that the Celtics have been playing extremely well so we got to find a way to, you know, get ourselves going.”

Raptors head coach Nick Nurse echoed his point guard’s sentiments, highlighting the importance of Game 3.

“I think we should know we shouldn’t give up,” Nurse said. “We know the next game is super critical but they’re all critical, they are. But we know this one’s super critical.”

The shooting needs to get better in clutch situations. But for a team looking for bright spots and positive takeaways heading into Game 3, it’s clearly OG Anunoby.

Now it’s up to the whole team playing with Anunoby’s competitiveness and intensity.

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