Prior to tip-off of Friday’s pivotal Game 3 between the Toronto Raptors and Orlando Magic, Raptors coach Nick Nurse dispelled any notions that Pascal Siakam was a tertiary star or third option on his team. During the Raptors latest win, an intense 98-93 victory on the road in Orlando to take a 2-1 series lead, Siakam was Toronto’s go-to star. And it was hard not to notice.
Here’s a look at what those covering the Raptors-Magic series outside of Canada had to say in the wake of Siakam’s 30-point, 11-rebound masterpiece:
ESPN’s Kevin Arnovitz takes a bit of a deep dive on Siakam’s impressive post-season thus far — he’s currently averaging 24.3 points and 10 rebounds per game — and the development of his all-around game, from playmaking, to scoring, to defence and everything in between.
The last time the Orlando Magic hosted a postseason game in 2012, Toronto Raptors power forward Pascal Siakam had just started playing organized basketball. Seven years later, a polished and self-fulfilled Siakam dominated Game 3 on Friday as Toronto held off Orlando 98-93 to take a 2-1 series lead.
…With a flurry of dribble attacks, post-ups and long-range bombs, Siakam paced the Raptors in an otherwise sluggish offensive game with 30 points, 11 rebounds and 4 assists. He joined Chris Bosh as the only player in Raptors history to score 30 points and collect 10 rebounds in a playoff game, per ESPN Stats & Information, and LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo as the only players in the past five seasons to achieve that feat without a turnover.
…A Siakam bucket isn’t always produced with the sort of grace and fluidity that accompany elite scorers. There are any number of moments in the sequence of movements that, unless you’re familiar with his game, might give an observer pause, especially when Siakam is working off the dribble. His lanky limbs can appear mechanical, the snapshot decisions random. An elite rebounder, he’ll gobble up missed shots on the defensive end and charge up the floor with the ball — sometimes with a plan, sometimes without.
Yet increasingly this season — one in which he looks to be a lock to win the NBA’s Most Improved Player award — the output is efficient, as it was on Friday night, when he compiled an effective field goal percentage of 72.5 on 20 attempts. As Toronto’s leader in minutes played in his third overall season, Siakam served as the constant variable in a lineup that was in flux. In doing so, often in the absence of Lowry and Kawhi Leonard, Siakam created more offense for himself.
NBA TV — “Pascal Siakam is the most improved player”
“Right from the jump we knew it was going to be a Pascal Siakam-type of ballgame,” NBA TV’s Game Time crew reflect on the early impressions from Friday’s win. “He made a huge impact,” Grant Hill said before breaking down the myriad ways in which Siakam did damage in Orlando:
Aside from posting 30 & 11 in the playoffs, on the road, the reason Pascal Siakam should be runaway MIP is because my man didn't have moves like this in his last season pic.twitter.com/sGlFwmvynf
— Michael Lee (@MrMichaelLee) April 20, 2019
On what was supposed to be a celebratory occasion — the return of playoff hoops in Orlando — Siakam and the Raptors spoiled the party. And while the home team was happy with limiting Kawhi Leonard’s production to 16 points, Toronto’s emerging superstar took the wind out of those sails, too:
The Orlando Magic found a way to contain Toronto Raptors all-star forward Kawhi Leonard. They couldn’t do the same with Pascal Siakam.
Now the momentum of the first-round playoff series between the teams has shifted back to the Raptors.
Siakam scored a game-high 30 points, including 10 in a key stretch of the third quarter, and the Toronto Raptors held off the Magic for a 98-93 victory in Game 3 Friday night at Amway Center.
…The Magic made it tough on Leonard, the Raptors’ leading scorer who had averaged 31 points over the first two games.
But the Magic hounded him from the get-go. Leonard was 1-for-5 from the field for two points and had three turnovers in the first quarter, and it didn’t get much better from there.
By halftime, he had eight points and five turnovers.
Leonard, who missed practice Wednesday and Thursday because he wasn’t feeling well, wound up going 5-for-19 for 16 points with six turnovers.
Unfortunately for the Magic, Siakam more than picked up the slack.
“He made a lot of big buckets,” Nurse said of Siakam. “He was really patient. I thought he would see a mismatch, and wait until he got enough composure or an angle or the right pump fake or whatever. It was just real mature play from a young player.
“He just seems to keep getting better week by week as we go here, which is impressive.”