Pascal Siakam ties career-high with 44 but injuries sour win


Here are 10 takeaways from the Toronto Raptors’ 122-104 win over the New Orleans Pelicans.

One — Professional: The biggest difference between the Raptors and the Pelicans tonight was professionalism. The reigning champions came with intent, and the lottery team barely showed up for work. Toronto racked up 25 fast-break points in the first half and raced out to a massive advantage. New Orleans tried to make a push, but Toronto’s starters easily fended them off. Even with Zion Williamson on the shelf, the Pelicans still have enough talent to compete, but none of it matters without effort.

Two — Exceptional: Pascal Siakam torched the Pelicans in every way imaginable. To start, Siakam drained five triples and made Josh Hart play Twister as part of his 26 first-half points. When the defense settled in, Siakam went to work on the block and cooked every single player the Pelicans put on him. For the life of me I don’t understand why the Pelicans didn’t send triple teams, especially since the Raptors were shorthanded, but Siakam capitalized and matched his career-high with 44 points. At this rate, Siakam might become the first repeat winner of the Most Improved Player award.

Three — Aggression: At one point in the third quarter, the Pelicans asked Kendrich “Kenny Hustle” Williams to body up on Siakam. Williams picked Siakam up full court, bodied up and swiped at the ball, and Siakam nearly lost the dribble as he was forced to turn. But right at that moment, Siakam went behind his back, crossed Williams over to reveal the lane, and darted inside for an and-one. Siakam then turned to Williams and not-so-politely asked him to step back, before draining the free throw. That’s the mentality of a superstar right there — not just to meet the challenge, but to thoroughly embarrass the defender for having the audacity to attempt.

Four — Clinched: To put the cherry on the sundae, Siakam also closed out the game by going to work on the block. Again, the Pelicans refused to double, but they did assign an All-Defense calibre guard in Jrue Holiday to the job. Siakam had gotten mugged by Holiday on one possession earlier on, but Siakam took Holiday to school in the post as he got to the basket twice, while adding in a 15-foot push shot for good measure to close out the game. Crunch time scoring was a question coming into the season, but it’s clear that Siakam isn’t afraid of the moment, as he’s shooting 55 percent in clutch scenarios on the year.

Siakam was terrific once again. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Five — Sensational: If Siakam played the role of Kawhi Leonard, then OG Anunoby was his Siakam. Anunoby scored 21 points — just one shy of his career-high — while also showing a bit of everything. His defensive activity was tireless as always, but he also mixes in the occasional hint — a clever pass, or a hard drive off a pick-and-roll — that leaves you wondering if there’s still more to come. His confidence is sky-high at the moment, so much so that on one of his five 3-pointers, Anunoby turned down a swing pass to Kyle Lowry to call his own number instead.

Six — Rejuvenated: If Norman Powell can play like this more often, then the Raptors really wouldn’t need to extend Lowry and Fred VanVleet as much as they do. Powell was great in his role as the Sixth Man, as he overcame a slow start to finish with 18 points on just 10 shot attempts. Powell was aggressive in transition, he made decisive moves to the basket, and didn’t overthink his possessions. He’s much better when he attacks immediately off the catch, instead of trying to break down a set defense with his dribble.

Seven — Concern: The worry from this game is that Kyle Lowry suffered a fractured left thumb, which forced him out of the game at halftime. Lowry sustained the injury on an innocent play swiping at Derrick Favors on a rebound. Initially, the team announced that Lowry was dealing with a torn fingernail, and he did return to knock down a three, but now the prognosis is that he will see a specialist in Los Angeles. Nick Nurse did say that Lowry’s injury is unrelated to his offseason surgery on the same digit, but given the report of the nail, it’s unclear what exactly is going on.

Eight — Another concern: To make matters worse, Serge Ibaka also suffered a right ankle sprain. Nurse described it as severe, and reports are that Ibaka left the game in a walking boot and with crutches. Again, that could just be for precaution, but it’s a worrying sign to say the least.

Nine — Alternatives: The Raptors are flat out of luck if Ibaka or Lowry miss time. Nurse was already running a seven-man rotation, and now the situation is untenable. As witnessed tonight, the Raptors’ bench is unreliable outside of Ibaka and Powell. Chris Boucher supplied some energy and came up with a handful of hustle plays, but he’s a situational piece. Matt Thomas is great shooter but he gives it back on defense. Terence Davis has cooled off after a promising start to the year and has totalled more fouls than any other boxscore stat in the last two games. There is a clear drop-off when Nurse digs into his reserves, and that corrosive effect is only compounded when more than one share the floor.

Ten — Molasses: After making progress in his last few games, Marc Gasol pieced together yet another stinker tonight. He was three steps slow on both ends, was aggressively passive, and looked winded from start to finish. Hopefully it’s just an off-night, but it’s becoming the norm for Gasol.

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