With over millions of people enchanted by it, the game of basketball has cemented its place as one of the most popular sports in the US. The way it can be played is easily accommodating and simplistic enough to be grasped. All you need to have is a hoop and a ball, and you can do magical and amazing things with your hands.
Simplicity, magic, and amazement. These three words are synonymous with Luka Doncic. Touted by many as one of the NBA’s dominant single forces, Doncic powered his way as a generational talent all the way from Slovenia. Well-equipped with fundamentally-sound intangibles and skill set, he graced the court on a nightly basis at a young age in the European leagues. Honing his craft and battling some of the best defences in Spain, where he made the youngest senior debut – and led them to a championship two years late.
This season, Luka has been on a tear as the established centerpiece of the Dallas Mavericks. Coming off a promising 2021-2022 campaign of carrying the Mavs to a Western Conference Finals finish, Luka continues to pile up historical numbers on route towards potentially his first, official Most Valuable Player (MVP) of the entire association.
But on Saturday, Doncic had an unusual night in front of the wild Scotiabank Arena, as his wits were put to the test by the Toronto Raptors behind the brilliance of OG Anunoby.
Toronto Raptors rising star OG Anunoby has been reaping bountiful praise to start this season, and his solid night against the Dallas Mavericks can only add another promising note towards his spectacular two-way evolution.
Primarily assigned to guard Mavs superstar Luka Doncic, head coach Nick Nurse stated that Anunoby may perhaps set to gain a satisfying sleep to cap off a wonderful night of containing the Slovenian phenom and charging the Raps to a narrow 105-100 victory.
“I think he’s going to sleep good tonight,” Nurse said of Anunoby.
“He was out a lot of minutes, a lot of work, a lot of denying the ball back. But he already did get a lot of help. Couldn’t let him go toe-to-toe with one of the league’s best, and it’s good that he could make the plays out on the other hand.”
Channeling his rugged, smothering defensive stance, Anunoby took the daunting challenge of checking an offensive juggernaut in Doncic. He was appointed to play the whole 24 minutes of the second half and ultimately held down the phenom to a 24-point evening, 10 points lower than his season averages that currently stands as the best in the league.
Doncic, who played the entire final frame to effortly carry the lopsided Mavs, was also limited to 15 shot attempts overall, much lower if compared to his 23 field goal tries per game average.
As such, the British wingman is acknowledging the hardships of locking down Doncic in the second half crunch time.
“I’ll just have to stay on high alert. You know that ball’s going to him [Doncic], and you know you’re probably get screened, then you have to fight over. I’m just always staying ready, being on high alert, and definitely having to have a lot of focus.
In return, the Mavericks cornerstone praised Anunoby’s calm demeanor and chill ambiance, calling him as “probably one of the nicest dudes in the league.”
”I think he’s probably one of the nicest dudes in the league,” Doncic said. ”He never talks trash; he never does anything.”
Currently spearheading the NBA in steals made with 2.4 averages certainly lifts his case for a potential Defensive Player of the Year campaign, but the major revelation so far on Anunoby’s progress is his improved offensive arsenal.
Throughout 18 games, the former Indiana star is averaging a career-high 18.6 markers. With frontcourt running mate Pascal Siakam still sidelined with a groin injury, Anunoby embraced a heavier task of increasing his point production in 36.2 minutes of play.
In this weekend’s win over Dallas, he chalked up 26 points on 9-for-19 shooting. He further willed Toronto when it mattered, draining 12 points in the final period.
The heroic turnaround and development being made by Anunoby can only deliver a proud impression for teammate Fred VanVleet.
“He’s been kind of our primary guy for the last two weeks, and we’re gonna need him to have that same aggressiveness even when Pascal [Siakam] gets back,” VanVleet said of Anunoby.
“I just love his approach to the game. He’s laying everything out there on the line. He’s coming in early, working on his game. He’s been a complete pro this year. I’m just proud of him and how far he’s come as a player.”