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OG Anunoby impresses in regular-season debut for Toronto Raptors

TORONTO — OG Anunoby, already in motion at the three-point line, took a hard feed from Delon Wright and drove to the net.

TORONTO — OG Anunoby, already in motion at the three-point line, took a hard feed from Delon Wright and drove to the net. The Toronto Raptors rookie got Chicago guard Quincy Pondexter to plant his feet with a couple of left-handed dribbles and then spun to his right, putting the Bulls defender on his back as Anunoby went for the two-handed dunk for the first points of his NBA career.

"That's a big boy move, that's a showtime move," said veteran forward C.J. Miles with a laugh after Toronto's 117-100 win over Chicago on Thursday night. "I always say that to him before the game. 'It's showtime.' He laughs at it but I'm just trying to get him to relax and laugh a little bit."

Anunonby had another two-handed jam less than three minutes later to give Toronto a 35-23 lead with 10:12 left in the second quarter and force the Bulls to take a timeout.

The 20-year old finished the Raptors' home opener with nine points, three rebounds and two assists in 20:01 of work in the first regular-season game of his career. He led Toronto with a plus-26 defensive rating, one point ahead of Miles, the leader of the Raptors' potent second unit.

In Toronto's dressing room after the game Anunoby was relaxed, fielding questions from a large group of reporters while he sat in a rolling chair in front of his locker. If he was pleased with his first two points in the NBA, he stayed modest.

"It felt good, I've worked on it before," said Anunoby of his dunk on Pondexter. "I thought I could do it."

Toronto head coach Dwane Casey was most impressed with Anunoby's athleticism, especially after the young forward had surgery in January to repair his ACL. That injury had him tumble down the 2017 draft this summer, allowing the Raptors to select him 23rd overall, instead of in the top 10 as projected by most analysts.

"He's making some good decisions, unorthodox but good decisions, you'll say 'whoa, where did that come from?,'" said Casey. "He's always got something. His basketball IQ is high. He feels the game, he has a good feel for the game, even as a rookie.

"He's going to improve and improve. Once he gets his game conditioning. Guy had surgery not so long ago, seems like, and wasn't really expected to play until December. Now he's playing and way ahead of schedule."

A big part of Anunoby's early confidence comes from Miles, an off-season signing who describes himself as Toronto's hype man. In particular, he's been in Anunoby's ear, trying to build him up.

"(His first in Toronto game was) great, way better than mine," said a smiling Miles, who had 22 points and five rebounds. "I told him that too out on the floor. I said 'That's a great first game.'"

Anunoby was quick to give credit to all of his teammates, coaches and training staff for helping him recover from the surgery and make a quick impact for the Raptors. But he singled out Miles and Serge Ibaka for helping him out.

"C.J. and Serge have given me a lot of advice, just tell me to be confident and shoot the ball, play hard, and I know I can do that," said Anunoby.

All-star point guard Kyle Lowry was also impressed with Anunoby's athleticism and belief in himself.

"He's just out there playing," said Lowry. "And we're going to give him the confidence to go out there and help us and I think he's going to be really, really good."


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John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press