A self-critical Pascal Siakam shouldered the blame as the Toronto Raptors’ Championship defence came to an end in Game 7 against the Boston Celtics on Friday night.
Siakam recorded 13 points, 11 rebounds and three assists in the Raptors’ 92-87 defeat and finished the series having surpassed 20 points in just one game and shot four of 32 from behind the arc.
“Obviously, I have to be better,” said Siakam. “It was definitely a learning moment for me, just learning from this experience and just learning that you’ve gotta be ready and I wasn’t able to help my teammates. I take a lot of the blame, man.”
The All-Star forward hasn’t been quite as prolific since the restart as he was prior to the season’s suspension in March, firing a bubble-high of just 26 points twice in outings against the Memphis Grizzlies and Brooklyn Nets.
Siakam had been averaging 45.6 percent shooting overall and 35.9 percent from distance before the hiatus, that dipping to 39.4 percent from the field and 35.6 percent from long-range in seven seeding games at the NBA campus near Orlando.
His Raptors teammates have meanwhile played a key role in sharing the workload, Fred VanVleet and Kyle Lowry both impressing in the post-season series against the Nets and Celtics.
Lowry believes Siakam’s dip in form will only help him develop as a player and a leader moving forward.
“For a guy like me, that has gone through the type of things that he is going through in this moment, he’ll be able to call me whenever and I won’t tell him nothing wrong,” said Lowry.
“I don’t think he did anything wrong, I think this is a learning experience. I think this is only going to make him a better basketball player, a better man, a better everything.
“I would not be surprised to see him come back even more hungry and destroying people.”
Speaking on Inside the NBA after the game, former 15-time All-Star Shaquille O’Neal explained the need for Siakam to embrace his status as the Raptors’ star man.
Siakam has been a driving force behind a Raptors team that evidently surprised people with its success following the departure of Kawhi Leonard at the end of last season.
“Being a great player is a mindset,” said O’Neal. “When you’re the best player on the team, they hand it over to you, so if you believe you’re the best, you have to have that mindset. I don’t think he had the mindset the whole series.
“Still a hell of a player, still deserves all the accolades but if they are going to put all the onus on him, he has to have that mindset.
“For example, Fred VanVleet took more shots than he did. When you’re the number one option on a team nobody is supposed to take more shots than you.
“We all knew it was going to be tough for them to go back to back without Kawhi but they fought well.”
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