Pascal Siakam and the Toronto Raptors were supposed to play the role of Washington Generals before the mighty Harlem Globetrotters, better known as the Boston Celtics. Without OG Anunoby available to suit up, the result seemed like a foregone conclusion after how poorly Toronto played without him previously.
A hot start by Siakam was negated by three separate fouls, which led Darko Rajakovic to sit him down for the entire second quarter. In that quarter, Toronto was outscored by 22 points, went into halftime down 16, and appeared to be on their way to yet another trouncing.
The potential All-Star led a spirited effort that saw Toronto erase the halftime deficit and briefly take the lead against arguably the best team in the league. Toronto lost 108-105, but Siakam’s 23 points in 29 minutes helped the Raptors make this a nailbiter at the end when they appeared dead in the water earlier in the contest.
The Raptors are at yet another crossroads, this one testing just how desperate Toronto is to compete in the 2023-24 season. Getting rid of Siakam could help bring in more depth, but nights like tonight likely wouldn’t happen very often without such an elite scorer and creator who can make plays when the chips are down.
The Toronto Raptors need to lean on Pascal Siakam.
Getting a bench is an admirable goal and a necessity for building a winner, but there’s something about Siakam’s ability to get hot and put the entire team on his back that is incredibly hard to replicate. Scottie Barnes can do it, but Siakam’s experience and pedigree can make him the go-to option when things go south.
The Raptors’ half court offense is certainly more fluid and diverse this season, but they are prone to the same malaises from last year due to a lack of creativity. Even with all the improvements Barnes has made, sometimes Toronto’s best offensive game plan is giving Pascal the ball and getting out of his way.
The quickest way for Ujiri to improve this bench would be trading Pascal for a haul of picks and players, but it will take some time before Barnes is on Siakam’s level as a primary scoring option. Imagine nights like this for the next year and change without the Siakam cheat code to lean on.
Toronto’s problems on offense are obvious, and Siakam contributed to some of them early in the year due to Rajakovic’s inability to get him in a rhythm. Even with all of that swirling overhead, Pascal’s individual brilliance is still excellent enough to paper over these cracks and make the offense tolerable.