“It was cool.”
Three words. Three syllables. Nine letters.
That was how Toronto Raptors forward OG Anunoby described his thrilling buzzer-beating shot against the Boston Celtics in Game 3.
The short description doesn’t do justice to the significance of the moment. In the short-term, Anunoby’s corner three at the buzzer propelled the Raptors to a 104-103 victory, getting them back in the series. A big picture reflection demonstrates Anunoby’s impact as not just a stout defender but also someone that can shoot with confidence.
“When I took that shot I expected to make it,” said Anunoby to reporters after Game 3. “I don’t shoot trying to miss. Every shot I shoot I try to make it. So I was not surprised. I wasn’t surprised.”
Anunoby revealed that he hit buzzer-beaters while attending Jefferson City High School. His affinity for performing in high-pressure moments came in the 2018 NBA Playoffs against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Like against the Celtics, the Raptors were down 2-0 in the series. In Game 3, in LeBron James’ house, Anunoby converted a deep three-pointer with eight seconds remaining in the fourth quarter.
James broke the Raptors’ hearts (yet again) with a buzzer-beater of his own. But Anunoby showed he could make big shots.
Next to Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry, Anunoby is Toronto’s best player in this series against the Celtics. He is averaging 14.6 PPG on a 73.3 percent true shooting percentage. Whether it’s forcing turnovers via deflections, using his active feet to get to the rim, or willing to shoot the three when he has a good look (Anunoby has eight-made threes in three games), it’s evident Anunoby is capitalizing on both ends of the floor, despite a lower usage rate.
This is why Anunoby’s buzzer-beater carries more significance, given the work he’s put in off the court to prepare himself for a historic moment.
“The pass was nothing,” Lowry said. “OG made the shot. All the credit goes to the shot, man. That’s a tough shot. Give OG that credit. The pass was just to get it to a guy like OG. It’s OG’s moment, man. That’s a great moment for that kid.”
The Raptors only creator and only three-point threat combine. pic.twitter.com/prrymoo2s2
— Raptors Republic (@raptorsrepublic) September 3, 2020
Early on in Game 3, Anunoby got into his spots for threes. As seen above, Lowry drives into the paint off of the Serge Ibaka screen. Despite Celtics center Robert Williams’ length, Celtics forward Jayson Tatum was late covering Anunoby on the left-center spot. The separation between Tatum and Anunoby allowed Lowry to pass the ball to OG, who sank the wide-open three-pointer.
YES OG YES OG NO FRED NO FRED pic.twitter.com/JrMnEL3y60
— Raptors Republic (@raptorsrepublic) September 4, 2020
As you can see above, Lowry switches off Tatum to guard Celtics’ big man Enes Kanter. This leaves Anunoby to guard Tatum. As Tatum tries to fake out Anunoby with his between the legs dribbling, Anunoby is quick to deflect the ball when it’s in Tatum’s left hand. This leads to the Anunoby steal, once again showing his quick hands and feet in transition. Unfortunately, Raptors guard Fred VanVleet turned the ball over but it once again demonstrates Anunoby setting up the Raptors transition offense with the steal.
THIS KEMBA WALKER DIME. CLUTCH. pic.twitter.com/3j92H5NSm0
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) September 4, 2020
The Raptors got into the position to draw up a last-second play thanks to Kemba Walker, who put up 29 points in Game 3. On the preceding possession to the buzzer-beater, with the game tied at 101-101, VanVleet and Marc Gasol decided to trap Walker. The Celtics guard moved past Gasol into the paint, where he launched a backhanded pass to a wide-open Daniel Theis for the emphatic dunk. Anunoby guarded Tatum while Siakam did not hang back in the paint, allowing Theis to get the easy two points with 0.5 seconds remaining.
As Lowry revealed after the game, the initial play was to inbound to VanVleet. Theis successfully guarded VanVleet, making the pass impossible to the Raptor guard. The second option was Siakam, but Marcus Smart covered him and there wasn’t a lot of open space for the Raptor forward to catch and shoot.
Tatum initially guarded Anunoby in the right corner but decided to switch off to help Theis guard VanVleet. This ended up being a crucial mistake for the Celtics. Anunoby walked over to the opposite, near-side corner with no trouble, making him a wide-open target. Despite the immense 7-foot-7 length of Tacko Fall hovering over Lowry, he launched a deep pass crosscourt. Anunoby caught the pass and had enough time to fire a jump shot, without Jaylen Brown blocking it.
The rest is history. After making the shot, Anunoby walked away, like it was practice rather than an important playoff game.
“That’s just what he does, that’s him,” Lowry said. “I know deep down inside he’s excited and he’ll get a lot of text messages and he needs the credit, he deserves all the love and celebration he’s getting tonight, that kid works extremely hard and it’s his moment.
“Let him live in it and then I’ll ruin it tomorrow when we’re watching film and I’ll tell him what he messed up on.”
Anunoby made the 9th buzzer-beater in Raptors franchise history and the second in the NBA Playoffs, the first being Kawhi Leonard last year in Game 7 against the Philadelphia 76ers.
While last year’s four bounces and swoosh marked the end of the series, Thursday’s Game 3 felt like a Game 7 for the Raptors. Lose to the Celtics and the Raptors are facing elimination down 3-0. Now, it’s 2-1, with the Raptors showing life.
And OG Anunoby continuing to produce “cool” moments.