Pascal Siakam’s early bubble play doesn’t concern Raptors

Toronto Raptors' Pascal Siakam (43) drives as Miami Heat's Bam Adebayo (13) defends during the second half of an NBA basketball game. (Ashley Landis, Pool, AP)

Pascal Siakam squares up Bam Adebayo on the right wing, puts the ball between his legs and makes a move diving towards the paint. In the right corner, he spots an open Marc Gasol, who receives the pass and then immediately puts the ball on the floor back into the heart of the paint with a surprised Jae Crowder following on the play.

While this is happening, Siakam spots Adebayo’s attention has momentarily slipped away from him to Gasol, and so he relocates to the right corner from the dunker spot, catches a pass, hesitates a little — as if he was purposely waiting for Adebayo to recover in time — then calmly splashes the three right in his eye.

Taking place early in the first quarter of the Toronto Raptors’ 107-103 victory over the Miami Heat, these were Siakam’s first three points of the game and the start of a 13-point explosion from the All-Star that saw him go 5-of-7 from the field and 3-of-5 from three-point range in the frame.

It was a relieving sight for Raptors fans, who may have been sweating a little from Siakam’s restart-opening performance against the Los Angeles Lakers that saw him score 15 points on a poor 5-of-17 shooting.

However, after that first-quarter eruption, Siakam once again quieted down for the rest of the game, only managing nine more points on 2-of-7 shooting.

Siakam finished Monday’s affair with 22 points on 7-of-14 shooting. Good numbers for sure, but as Toronto’s leading scorer and definitive No. 1 option, it’s worth asking if there should be any concern over the fact that the only time Siakam’s been able to truly get uncorked thus far in Toronto’s seeding games has been for just one quarter of play.

At the very least, the Raptors themselves don’t seem too bothered.

“He’s at a pretty good level, I think he’s making good choices,” Raptors head coach Nick Nurse said of Siakam after Monday’s game. “I like how he’s shooting the ball when he’s supposed to, quick release on those, making good decisions so far. He looks good to me.”

Nurse’s assessment of Siakam is worth noting because the Raptors All-Star has been shooting the ball very well from three-point range, even as he’s appeared to struggle elsewhere on the floor. In the two games the Raptors have played so far, Siakam is an excellent 6-of-11 from beyond the arc.

Taking another look at Monday’s game, in which Siakam drilled four triples, you can see good examples of what Nurse is talking about.

Including the clip near the top of this post, you can see examples of the quick release Nurse was alluding to send the ball up and over outstretched hands with ease, as well as Siakam’s decision-making as it pertains to re-locating and/or sizing up his man before opting to pop one in his grill.

With that said, Siakam does appear to not be all the way there in terms of shots inside the arc. In the two seeding games the Raptors have played, Siakam is only 6-of-19 on looks 19 feet away from the basket or less, including just 4-of-12 on attempts fewer than five feet from the bucket.

That last stat in particular is problematic because before the season hiatus, Siakam would convert on those five-feet-or-less looks at a 61.4 per cent clip.

It’s hard to point to what exactly the issue is with Siakam finishing inside, but seeing him get blocked as easily as this certainly isn’t very encouraging.

With that said, it has only been two games and with Nurse and the Raptors coaching staff comfortable with where Siakam’s at offensively, in addition to the success the team’s enjoyed thus far in the bubble, this slow start is probably just a blip on the radar.

The Raptors next play the Orlando Magic on Wednesday, who will be without Jonathan Isaac due to his season-ending ACL injury. Isaac is a monster defender and has usually taken the matchup against Siakam, limiting the Raptors star to just 17.5 points per game on 35.7 per cent shooting in three contests played this season.

Without Isaac in the picture, however, Siakam will have an excellent opportunity to break out of this mini-funk he seems to be in at the moment.

When submitting content, please abide by our submission guidelines, and avoid posting profanity, personal attacks or harassment. Should you violate our submissions guidelines, we reserve the right to remove your comments and block your account. Sportsnet reserves the right to close a story’s comment section at any time.