There happened to be an actual NBA basketball game played Friday night between the Toronto Raptors and Brooklyn Nets. If you were able to sift through the debacle that was the NBA’s handling of Kevin Durant and his COVID-19 contact tracing issues, you probably saw one of the Raptors’ best wins of the season. It was an impressive 123-117 statement victory for Toronto who jumped all the way from 10th in the Eastern Conference to sixth.
A lot of Saturday’s victory had to do with the play of Pascal Siakam who took advantage of the Nets’ lackadaisical defence and scored a season-high 33-points. He did it in vintage Siakam fashion, without a single 3-pointer and repeatedly posting up inferior Nets defenders in the paint.
“I thought he really showed some good composure and patience,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said. “[He] made some good reads when he needed to and then he finally got a few bounces.”
Part of it is certainly regression from Siakam who was due for a few friendly bounces after an unlucky start to the season, but it isn’t all just good luck. The 26-year-old Raptors star is back to his old ways attacking the rim and looking to finish instead of hoping a foul call will bail him out. On Saturday, he showed some real finesse around the rim and an ability to read and assess the situation correctly.
His first bucket of the night came on a classic Siakam play. He got the ball deep in the paint and with the double team already there he decided to back out and try re-posting Bruce Brown. Once he got deep enough and with DeAndre Jordan deciding not to come help off Aron Baynes, Siakam spun around and finished at the rim.
Later in the quarter, he recorded his first assists of the game on a very similar play. He waited for the help to come and once Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot left Chris Boucher, Siakam spun around and delivered a perfect pass for an easy bucket.
His game was a near-perfect balance of attacking one-on-one matchups and passing out of double teams to find open teammates. It was the kind of performance the Raptors had been longing for from Siakam to start the season. Now healthy again, he appears to have refound his finishing ability.
The next step for him will be pairing his inside scoring with some outside shooting. Last season he shot nearly 36% on 6.1 3-point attempts per game. This season, however, his 3-point shooting numbers have dropped all the way to 23% and lately, he isn’t even looking to shoot. Over the last four games, he’s attempted just seven 3-pointers and failed to make a single one. It’s gotten to the point where teams are dropping back on him daring him to shoot 3-pointers.
If he can refind his shooting stroke from last season, he’ll be well on his way back to that All-NBA level.