The Toronto Raptors are unable to exorcise their demons, as they drop to 1-6 following a loss to the Phoenix Suns.
Another game leads to another loss for the Toronto Raptors, as they aren’t able to win their first game of their western conference road trip. Despite the loss, this was by far the most encouraging performance the Raptors have given in some time. With that being said, here are some key takeaways from the Raptors’ loss to the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday night.
#1: Pascal Siakam finally makes his ‘debut’
It feels like it’s been almost a year since we’ve seen the Pascal Siakam that Raptors fans know and love. Ever since the NBA season got suspended in March, Siakam was never the same player that he once was. 7 games into the 2021 season, Siakam has a performance that screams the Spicy P of old.
Despite the loss, Siakam tallied 32 points, 9 rebounds, and 3 assists on 52 percent shooting on the field. This was by far the best performance we’ve seen from Pascal in almost a year. His post-up position was great, didn’t rush his offense at all, and took his time getting to his spots on the floor.
Although his perimeter jumper wasn’t the best, as he shot 1-4 from three, his tenacity when it came to attacking the basket, led him to draw fouls and end up on the charity stripe, which he was 9-14.
Siakam also did a great job at avoiding foul trouble this time out. There were only 3 fouls called on number 43 in red, which is a great sign considering his track record this season. If Siakam can consistently play at this level, the level that we all know he can play at, the Raptors will definitely turn this ship around.
Consistency for the Raptors and Pascal Siakam is going to be huge. If there are hopes for the Raptors to bounce back from this disappointing start, Siakam needs to consistently be dominant.
#2: Bench play a huge factor in loss
The Toronto Raptors have a serious problem when it comes to the play of their second unit. Head coach Nick Nurse has yet to find the right pieces on the bench to help give Toronto the lift that is needed.
On Wednesday night, it was Yuta Watanabe who was called upon. In 16 minutes Watanabe had 3 points, and 3 rebounds but was also a game-low -14 on the floor. Nick Nurse is still trying to shuffle different puzzle pieces around, trying to get a lineup that will give him production.
Malachi Flynn has been given some playing time the past 2 games but has not been able to provide any impact on the offensive side of the floor. Flynn is a combined 0-9 in his last 2 games. Hopefully the rookie can provide a spark like what he was able to do for Toronto during the preseason.
The Raptors bench was outscored 42-26 by the Phoenix Suns, which was arguably the biggest reason why the Raptors aren’t leaving Phoenix with a win. Toronto’s inability to get consistent performances from their second unit has proven to be a huge liability for this team.
The days of the ‘Bench Mob’ are no longer, but there needs to be a decent bench set in place for there to be any success.
#3: Perimeter defense was the downfall for the Raptors
The Phoenix Suns absolutely torched the Toronto Raptors from three. The Suns made a season-high 21 threes on 52.5 percent shooting. The Raptors countered that with 14 threes on 40 percent shooting.
This has always been a team that takes pride in their defense, but as of late, defense has been a major hole for Toronto. The fourth quarter alone for the Suns was a three-point barrage. Mikal Bridges was making three after three, with Dario Saric and Cameron Payne joining the party as well.
Late closeouts, poor rotations, biting on pump fakes have all been defensive mishaps that are putting the Raptors in a horrible position by crunch time. A team that was among the top-rated defenses a season ago, is looking like an imposter right now.
The losses of Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol are evident more than ever, but there needs to be adjustments made. This is a new season with a new roster, and the Raptors need to figure things out and figure them out quickly. Attention needs to shift towards Friday night’s matchup against the Sacramento Kings.