Pascal Siakam and the Toronto Raptors had a very daunting task ahead of them in their duel against Chris Paul and the Phoenix Suns. With Scottie Barnes and Gary Trent Jr. not able to suit up in this one, role players like Yuta Watanabe and Chris Boucher had to answer the call without them.
This contest was as hard-hitting and exhausting as you’re going to see at this point in the regular season. While it was low-scoring and sloppy, that was the result of two quality defense teams going all out in order to help their respective squads come out of this skirmish with a win.
The Suns ended up taking home a 99-95 victory a back-and-forth contest that never gave either side time to breathe. The Raptors may have lost for the first time in 2022, but considering how they were undermanned and taking on a title contender, there’s plenty to be happy about.
The Raptors only played nine players against one of the deepest, most well-coached teams in the league. They were in it until the very last second. Outside of one or two substandard performances, there was a ton to be pleased with in this game.
Pascal Siakam and Chris Boucher played well for the Toronto Raptors.
While Fred VanVleet was doing his usual All-Star thing and OG Anunoby became the primary 3-point shooter without Trent, Siakam was going to work on the inside. For most of the contest, it was Pascal who was generating what little consistency they had on the offensive end.
Siakam recorded 22 points on 10-23 shooting with seven rebounds and seven assists. The Raptors were able to start off the first quarter in scintillating fashion thanks to Siakam’s playmaking and they stayed in this game thanks to his quality interior finishing.
While his early-season struggles are fresh in the mind of most Raptors fans, the birthday boy in Boucher put together arguably his best game of the season tonight.
On a night where the Raptors recorded 22 offensive rebounds, Boucher led the charge with nine and ended the night with 16 total rebounds. With 13 points and three blocks off of the bench, Boucher was impacting this game for all 37 minutes he was on the floor.
While he could end up in trade talks ahead of his impending free agency, Boucher is making a very compelling case for Toronto to hold on to him until the end of the season. Playing like this against a deep, talented frontcourt was extremely impressive from the rail-thin Canadian.
Justin Champagnie gets some love too. What a performance in such a limited amount of time! The improvement is real.
Yuta Watanabe looked out of sorts for the Toronto Raptors.
While Svi Mykhailiuk nearly took home this dubious honor by looking like a G League player in his limited action, Watanabe was able to beat him out tonight. After earning a start in place of the injured Barnes and Trent, Yuta’s offensive showing left a ton to be desired.
In 15 minutes on the floor, Watanabe was held without a point on 0-4 shooting while recording just one rebound. Just a few days removed from a 26-point, 13-rebound game that helped showcase his quality at this level, Watanabe was unable to generate a ton of offense.
Watanabe’s performance can be excused to a degree when you consider that he is playing his first extended action since returning from the health and safety protocols, but he missed some easy shots in a very close game. Yuta will bounce back, but he needs to burn the film from his contest against Phoenix.