The circumstances are so strange, the stakes are so different, the responsibilities are so great and one of the fascinating questions about a young raptor couple would be how they would react.
OG Anunoby has been delightful, providing precisely what the team needs in these early days of their NBA Championship defense and it has been very welcome.
Terence Davis II? Not really. But he has time to find his rhythm, and the worry quotient has yet to reach significant highs.
Anunoby, however, was a revelation.
He kept characters like LeBron James from the Lakers as powerful and astute as any player in the game and helped him control him as much as possible.
He kept Bam Adebayo of Miami, a young tall man flexible, powerful and with so much poise and success.
He was unusually aggressive and efficient on offense, making opponents pay to release him to focus primarily on Kyle Lowry and Pascal Siakam.
Anunoby was, to say the least, the nicest surprise since things really started outside of Orlando. A young player who plays like a seasoned veteran, someone who quickly learned difficult lessons.
“I think defense is a lot like offense, but it doesn’t come through as much,” Raptors head coach Nick Nurse said. “They keep doing readings and fooling each other and faking help and really rotations.
“There are a lot of things you really have to learn: when to double down and when not to, when to push up, when to pass or when to sink, communicate things. There are a lot of things there. (Anunoby’s) has a great athletic body, good enough mindset to play, plays hard, takes on challenges. There’s a lot to like about this point at this end of the room, that’s for sure.
The biggest thing to love is that Anunoby has a lot more great games than average. The goal is always consistency and it’s one of the hardest things for a young player – Anunoby is still only 23 and in his third NBA season – to perfect himself.
“He shows us these glimpses of where he can go, and since we all talk about it all the time, he makes those kinds of games a little more regularly,” Nurse said. “I always like to pack them in five. “If you’ve played five games, how many out of five can you play that way? You’re not going to do it five out of five – hardly anyone does. So that’s it. We just want to keep it positive.
Anunoby is not the type to spend a lot of energy discussing himself or his game. She is a rather reluctant participant in the interview process, not at all interested in using 10 words to answer a question. when one or two is enough.
It’s not that he’s confrontational or condescending, and he will politely listen to questions when they are asked, but no one will ever describe him as talkative.
Teammates and team insiders swear he is much more talkative, entertaining and pleasant in the group. His public figure, however, is much less so.
“The only thing about OG, man, (is) guys get him as much as they want, but he’s gonna be really good in this league for a long time,” Kyle Lowry said earlier this week.
Hearing Lowry’s praise lifted the spirits of Anunoby, who was born in London, England.
“He’s an All-Star – six-time Olympic medalist, a champion, so he’s really accomplished in this league so for him to see that in me, that means a lot to me,” Anunoby said.
Davis, meanwhile, didn’t find about the same level of comfort in taking over the NBA as Anunoby and that perhaps shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise.
Davis is a rookie, these games are at a different speed and intensity than the first 64 players he played in the NBA and it takes some getting used to.
He lasted about 12 minutes against the Lakers on Saturday and only played four against Miami on Monday. His time on the pitch will be entirely up to him – if he has an impact, he will play; if it doesn’t produce, it won’t.
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This is how Nurse has approached his bench players all season, letting them run when things are going well, letting them sit when they aren’t. There’s every chance Davis will play a handful of good games in a row, but it’s obvious the coaching staff won’t be waiting long every night.
This happened in the first two games with Davis, and to a lesser extent Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, but it’s not something the coach is going to get excited about right now.
“We have to clean up and bring these guys back to who they are, who they’ve already proven themselves to be and then we can give them a few more minutes,” Nurse said.
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