NBA·Analysis

Raptors hope OG Anunoby's buzzer-beater is this year's dose of playoff 'magic'

It was one of those games Toronto Raptors teams of the past probably would have lost. And it was another one of those moments where Raptors fans would wonder if the team would ever break through. 

Win is reminiscent of Game 3 win over Milwaukee Bucks in Eastern final last year

OG Anunoby sets up to make his game-winning shot Thursday against the Boston Celtics. (Getty Images)

It was one of those games Toronto Raptors teams of the past probably would have lost. 

And it was another one of those moments where Raptors fans would wonder if the team would ever break through. 

It looked as though on Thursday the Boston Celtics were about to win Game 3 of their Eastern Conference semifinal to essentially end the Raptors' season. No team in NBA history has ever come back from being down 3-0 in a series.

And then Kyle Lowry made one of the all-time great passes. And Anunoby made one of the all-time great buzzer-beating, game-winning shots.

"It was cool," Anunoby said after the game.

As cool as his reaction to hitting the shot.

"That has to be one of the most classic reactions of all time," Raptors head coach Nick Nurse said Friday. "I just saw it for the first time [today]. I was just, like, brings a smile to your face."

Cool, indeed. A turning point, perhaps.

The Toronto Raptors have new life now down 2-1 in their series against Boston. 

WATCH | Anunoby's buzzer-beater with 0.5 seconds left gives Raptors victory:

OG Anunoby connected on a huge three at the buzzer to give the Toronto Raptors a 104-103 victory in game 3 against the Boston Celtics. Toronto now trail 2-1 in their East semifinal series. 1:39

It's all eerily reminiscent of last year's magical playoff run when the Raptors found themselves in an identical scenario down 2-0 to the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern final and looking as though it would be another offseason of what might have been.

But on that May night inside the Scotiabank Arena, Kawhi Leonard put the team on his back, logging a career-high 52 minutes in a thrilling double overtime 118-112 victory, and gave the Raptors new life. 

They wouldn't lose another game in the series and would go on to win eight of their next 10 games to capture the franchise's first NBA championship. 

A couple of months after the championship run, Nurse said that game and that gutsy effort against the Bucks in Game 3 was when he knew something magical was happening. 

Thursday's miracle finish is giving the coach the same sort of feeling.

"I'm not sure that that doesn't rank with our gutsiest performances," Nurse said.

A sentiment shared by Raptors guard Fred VanVleet.

WATCH | Nick Nurse on Anunoby's 'classic' reaction:

Toronto Raptors coach Nick Nurse discusses OG Anunoby's reaction to his game-winning shot against the Boston Celtics, in Game 3 of their second round NBA playoff series. 1:43

Fan all in again

"This gives us a little juice. All we needed is one win. A little bit of magic," Vanvleet said.

The sleeping dinosaur has been awakened. Raptors fans, who might have been lulled into a bit of complacency after the team swept the Brooklyn Nets, are also all in again. 

At the drive-in Jurassic Park party in Toronto, hundreds of fans watching from their cars honked their horns, waved flags and towels and flashed their lights for what seemed like an eternity after Anunoby made the shot.

The new shot — a season after Kawhi's bounce-around-the-rim shot that sent the team into orbit.

For so much of this team's quarter-century existence, there have been so many disappointing, oh-so-close moments. 

But last year, the Raptors rewrote their history, coming up with clutch shots in pressure situations. There couldn't have been more pressure with just half a second remaining in the champion's season. 

Boston Celtics' Tacko Fall epitomizes the feelings of his team after their last-second loss to Toronto on Thursday. (The Associated Press)

They found a way yet again. 

There's no Leonard. But Lowry is still here.

'His moment'

Much like Leonard did in Game 3 against the Bucks, the gritty Lowry put the Raptors on his back, playing for 47 minutes, scoring 31 points and making the pass that allowed Anunoby to be the hero. 

And in typical Lowry fashion, he deflected any praise reporters might have wanted to give him for making the pass after the game. 

"He [OG] deserves all the love and celebration he's getting tonight. That kid works extremely hard, and it's his moment," Lowry said.  

It's been an emotionally exhausting week for Toronto, some of their players being the first to suggest a boycott was coming to put the spotlight back on police brutality and social injustice. 

And for the first two games, it looked as though the champs weren't overly motivated to defend their title and get out of the bubble. 

But they've found something to fight for. And who knows where it might lead.

"We've had a lot of gutsy performances from this crew," Nurse said. 

"A lot of guys who have fought their whole lives to get to where they are, amid other expectations."

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