For Raptors’ Pascal Siakam, continued struggles growing worrisome

Toronto Raptors' Pascal Siakam (43) dribbles up the court against the Los Angeles Lakers during the second half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, Aug. 1, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis, Pool)

TORONTO – Toronto Raptors all-star Pascal Siakam has been in a bit of a funk since the NBA’s restart, and while it likely went unnoticed during their initial 3-0 stretch, his struggles were more apparent during Friday’s 122-100 beatdown delivered by the Boston Celtics.

Siakam finished Friday’s affair against the Celtics with 11 points on a dismal 5-of-15 shooting though, in fairness, he wasn’t alone in his inability to find the bottom of the basket. The Raptors only shot 42.7 per cent from the floor as a team, including a dreadful 10-for-38 from three-point range.

Full credit should go the Celtics defence here, as they appeared to be locked in right from the opening tip, holding the Raptors to just two points for the first five minutes and 41 seconds of the game.

Of note during this span, Siakam was 0-for-3 from the field, most notably missing a couple of shots inside the paint, continuing a troubling trend of his since the Raptors entered the bubble.

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Coming into Friday’s contest, Siakam was only shooting 36.8 per cent on looks inside the paint since bubble play began, a far cry from the 55.4 per cent he was shooting in that area before the season hiatus.

After Friday’s game, Siakam is now averaging just 15.7 points per game and shooting only 37.9 per cent from the field, a steep drop in production from the 23.6 points per game and 45.9 per cent shooting he was putting up pre-Disney World.

So then, halfway through the seeding games, should we start worrying about Siakam’s productivity in the bubble?

“I think Pascal had a lot of really good opportunities, you know what I mean? It wasn’t like he wasn’t getting his chances and he had some really wide-open looks, and even had some good drives that I thought he was patient and composed and got good shots up,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said of Siakam’s night. “Some nights they just don’t go in. And then for the rest of it, nobody else was picking up the slack, right?”

Nurse’s assessment isn’t wrong, but it’s also the same one we’ve heard in regard to Siakam for four consecutive games. Harsh as it may be, as Toronto’s No. 1 option, the Raptors need far more from Siakam than what he’s been giving them.

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Devoid of a magnetic top-five-like player, a lot has been made of the Raptors’ ability to win as a team, but Friday night against the Celtics showed the downside in Toronto’s meritocracy.

There are times when a team just needs a guy to get a bucket no matter what — and as the top option, Siakam is the guy who’s supposed to do that. But he was unable to on Friday and the game spiralled out of control in turn.

Yes, Jaylen Brown did an excellent job as the primary defender on Siakam but, as Nurse said, the other guys were unable to pick up the slack Friday, so it was up to Toronto’s star to do the heavy lifting. He was unable to do so.

As unfair as it might sound, the expectation of being a go-to guy is to be that bucket-getter when no one else on the team can do so and at the moment Siakam is really struggling to be that guy.

He has to hit those open looks he’s getting more consistently, he has to finish in the paint more efficiently and he has to find ways to get to the free throw line more reliably (he didn’t attempt a single foul shot Friday).

None of this is easy to do, but it’s absolutely vital for the Raptors’ success moving forward.

Bad losses happen, and it’s not out of the question for stars to have off games, but four games straight? No matter how much the Raptors play it off, that seems pretty worrisome.

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