That’s Pretty Interesting is a recurring column by James Herbert, in which he examines all the fascinating little things around the NBA.
There was no time to think. Half a second was on the clock and the Boston Celtics were playing zone and Fred VanVleet couldn’t get open and Pascal Siakam couldn’t either and the 6-foot Kyle Lowry threw a pass over the 7-5 Tacko Fall and the ball was on its way to OG Anunoby with the season essentially on the line.
“There’s not many options there,” Toronto Raptors coach Nick Nurse said. “You’ve got to catch and shoot that thing, right?”
Anunoby was open, but Jaylen Brown leaped in his direction. Had Anunoby not shot the ball with sufficient arc, Brown might’ve joined James Harden’s Game-Winning Block Club, instead of lamenting that the final possession was a “f—ing disgrace.”
The buzzer-beater saved the Raptors’ season, and it also continued a trend: In short shot clock situations, Anunoby tends to deliver.
According to Synergy Sports, Anunoby led the entire NBA in effective field goal percentage in such situations, among players with more than 80 attempts. What do you think about that, Russ?
Anunoby has been proficient specifically when it comes to making 3-pointers with little time to spare. He shot a career-high 39 percent from deep in the regular season, but that number jumped to 46.7 percent with less than four seconds on the clock, per Synergy.
In Oklahoma City, Anunoby pump-faked and passed up a spot-up 3 with 13 seconds on the clock, then made an absurd, contested, much deeper 3 off the dribble just before the buzzer. Look at how high he shoots this thing:
Anunoby hardly ever takes pull-up 3s unless he’s forced to do so. But he made two of them with time ticking down against the Charlotte Hornets:
And he made a moonshot off the bounce in Detroit:
The game-winner on Thursday was immediately the biggest shot of his life, and one of the most incredible moments in Raptors history. But it wasn’t the first buzzer-beating corner 3 against the Celtics in the bubble.
Or the second.
In the wrong context, most players hate getting the ball late in the clock. “If there are three or four seconds left on the shot clock, you better not pass me that shit,” Thaddeus Young told Jake Fischer in a 2018 Sports Illustrated story about the phenomenon known as the “grenade.” It can lead to a low-percentage shot or a shot chock violation, which many mistakenly believe results in a turnover attributed to the last player to touch the ball.
The other side of this, though, is that you have no choice but to shoot the ball quickly, and with confidence.
Near the end of the shot clock, Anunoby is shot-ready. He is excellent at holding his follow-through, too:
In 2018, Ben Sullivan, now an assistant coach for the Milwaukee Bucks, told the Washington Post‘s Sally Jenkins that, even when a buzzer-beater looks rushed or desperate, “if you freeze the tape, the split-second they are actually shooting, their body is on balance and their eyes are on target.”
Great shooters do this almost automatically. What’s incredible about Anunoby is that, coming into the NBA, shooting was supposed to be his major weakness. Only in his third year, he has turned it into a strength.
“When I took that shot I expected to make it,” Anunoby said. “I don’t shoot trying to miss. Every shot I shoot I try to make it. So I was not surprised.”