If seven games into the season is too early to bury a struggling Pascal Siakam then one game is certainly not enough to declare he’s back but on Wednesday night in Phoenix, the Raptors All-Star forward had easily his best game of the year.
Siakam went for a game-high 32 points shooting 52.4 percent from the field in Toronto’s eight-point loss to the red-hot Suns. It was the first time Siakam crossed the 30-point threshold since March of last year and the first time he shot at least 50 percent from the field this season.
Let’s face it, Siakam’s best effort still came in another tough loss for the Raptors, but in a season that hasn’t had many positives to begin with, Siakam’s play on Wednesday night was at least a glimmer of hope that he and most importantly the team can find their groove again.
A large part of Siakam’s struggles can be traced back to his shooting slump. The lack of confidence in his 3-point shot dating back to the Orlando bubble was one thing, but his inefficiency in and around the goal was another. Siakam is shooting just 37.9 percent in non-restricted area paint field goals according to NBA Stats. In his breakout season in 2018-19, he shot 42.7 percent on those same field goal attempts.
Those buckets were what kept Siakam consistent. When his 3-ball wasn’t falling or the team needed a run-stopping basket the Raptors were able to count on a Siakam-spin and floater for 2. Naturally, teams have found a way to anticipate that famous spin move and Siakam’s efficiency in that area has fallen on hard times. But on Wednesday we saw Siakam attack the paint with confidence and use his size and strength over some of the Suns‘ better wing defenders. He finished the night going 3-for-5 in the non-restricted painted area.
Here he is attacking Jae Crowder and using his size to shoot over him with confidence.
Siakam does benefit from a ton of space in this play as his side of the floor is completely cleared out but he also didn’t hesitate and attacked with purpose – something we’ve seen very little of even in favourable situations this season.
In this next play, he once again attacks the defender, this time it’s the bigger DeAndre Ayton who is immediately put on his back foot as Siakam attacks him with a hard and confident dribble. The result is a hook shot made to look easy over length by Siakam who was clearly playing with a different type of swagger.
That level of aggressiveness also led Siakam to get to the line 14 times on Wednesday. In his previous five games, he had been to the line a combined 15 times. Can we expect Siakam to be living at the line the way he did against Phoenix on a nightly basis? Probably not, but in the last two games against the Suns and in the blowout loss to the Celtics, we’ve seen Pascal make more of an effort to put the pressure on the officials to blow their whistles instead of bailing out the defence with a passive jumper.
Again it’s still too early to declare that he’s fully back but he looked a lot closer to the All-Star Raptors fans had come to know on Wednesday night. Friday night against the Sacramento Kings at 10 p.m. on TSN will be the next test.
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