After DeMar DeRozan got double-teamed underneath the basket, he made a jump pass back to Ayo Dosunmu at the top of the key. With Caleb Martin coming to close out, Ayo pump faked the 3 before blowing by the defender and launching himself past Kyle Lowry for the finger roll layup.
Later in that 3rd quarter, Vucevic passed the ball to Dosunmu in the corner before coming over to set the screen. With Herro going over the top and Dedmon in the drop, Dosunmu swiftly made his way around the big man and sank the easy elbow jumper.
The two shots may not have been as highlight-worthy as his game-sealing dunk against the Pacers or his impressive swat on Trae Young last season, but they felt just as important. Combine those two buckets with his 3-6 performance from behind the arc and a couple of easy-looking baskets in transition, and Dosunmu looked arguably the most comfortable he’s looked on an NBA court.
I really don’t think we can overstate how impressive it is that a second-round selection in his sophomore season has taken over the starting point guard duties on a win-now team. Yes, I know the opportunity exists only because of Lonzo Ball’s injury trouble, but the way Dosunmu plays might warrant a spot among the team’s top-5 regardless. And last night only gave us more proof of that.
As great as Nikola Vucevic and DeMar DeRozan played throughout the game, it was Dosunmu that set the table. While he finished with only 4 assists, he relentlessly pushed the pace in transition and provided the same kind of active defense that originally got him on the floor last season. He helped promote the recently-tweaked brand of basketball this team wants to play on both ends of the floor, and that’s ultimately what a good point guard does.
I’m not someone who is going to sit here and tell you the plus-minus stat is a flawless metric, but it can at least provide some context to a player’s overall impact. Dosunmu walked out of last night’s opener with a +15 in his 36 minutes of action, which was comfortably best in the game behind only Nikola Vucevic. Again, this stat never tells the full story, but it matched the eye test last night. Dosunmu had his fingerprints all over a victory against the reigning No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference (17 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, 1 block) … and I just can’t say enough how freakin’ special that is.
Now, to be sure, we’re talking about one single basketball game. Before we can declare that Dosunmu is ready to take a true second-year leap, we must wait to see if he can replicate this kind of performance multiple times down the road. Having said that, my confidence in his ability to do just that is pretty darn high right now, especially when we consider he seems to have the coaching staff’s full trust.