oming off a championship run and a Most Improved Player of the year award last season, Toronto Raptor's Pascal Siakam was at an all time high from a performance standpoint. Spicy P continued that dominance with the start of this season last fall, where he enjoyed a career regular season. Getting his first All Star nod last February and even starting the NBA All Star game, fans were excited to see where his development would improve next. He posted career numbers of 22.9 points, 7.3 rebounds, 3.5 assists, while shooting 45.3% from the field.
Then the Coronavirus pandemic hit in mid March, and in unprecedented fashion, the NBA suspended its season.
Unfortunately, Siakam's game has remained suspended since.
He has not been the same since the NBA restart in late July, and with each passing game, it seems his offensive game has completely left him. His shooting touch, the non use of his left hand on post ups, his 3 point shooting, his awful decision making when he drives to the basket, his lackadaisical instincts with the ball leading to turnovers, and his lack of tenacity and fire has been truly awful to witness. Fortunately, his elite defense on Celtic's star Jayson Tatum has kept him on the court.
Toronto Raptor's head coach Nick Nurse was being constantly asked about Siakam's lack of productivity and abysmal shooting after each game in the Orlando bubble, and his answers were always in support of his star player. But that changed after the Raptors got blown out in Game 5 by the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Semi Finals.
"I'm not sure why he's been so out of rhythm since the restart. He hasn't had a lot of great games. Its too bad because he was spectacular in last year's playoffs and he was spectacular all season long. We still have games to go. Hopefully he can get his rhythm".
What's even more frustrating for Raptor fans is that Nick Nurse continues to give Siakam the ball during clutch moments in the game, which leads to turnovers or bad shots. So far in the bubble, he's shooting 21.3% from the 3 point line. Unfortunately for Siakam, after Nurse's comments regarding his struggles, it continued on Wednesday night during an elimination game for the Raptors in game 6 of the Eastern Semis, where he shot 26% from the field against the Celtics.
It seems that Celtics forward Jaylen Brown has his number, particularly in the post where Siakam doesn't seem like his fluid like self. Brown often makes Siakam catch the ball far out of his comfort zone, which leads to Pascal shooting contested fadeways which are low percentage shots.
Fortunately for the Raptors, Siakam's teammates came to play on Wednesday night.
Norman Powell was huge down the stretch. His accuracy at the free throw line late showed a mental poise that Raptor fans were delighted to see. Marc Gasol finally also showed something on the offensive end, with him knocking down a few 3 pointers to keep the defense of the Celtics honest in the 3rd quarter. OG Anunoby played center in the 4th quarter and the 2 overtimes against the big Daniel Theis and showed heart and tenacity with key rebounds and defensive plays as well as a massive 3 pointer in the second overtime.
And of course, there's Kyle Lowry. Without question, Lowry is the best player in franchise history. He led all scorers with 33 points, to go along with 8 rebounds and 6 assists in a whopping 53 minutes for the 34 year old. Every single time the Raptors needed something, anything in game 6, he delivered. He is a future hall of famer and the Raptors will no doubt retire his number; just a stellar performance.
This team has championship DNA written all over it. Its pretty clear the Celtics are the more talented team with more athletic, bigger guards out on the perimeter. But there's no quit in this Raptor team. The Celtics hit 19 3 pointers, the Raptors trailed by 12 in the first half, but this team didn't quit.
The question remains: Will Siakam join the hard play of his teammates on Friday night in game 7? What can Nick Nurse and the coaching staff do to get his star going? Siakam's lack of production puts a lot of pressure on his teammates, and this is not a sustainable formula for success. For one, he needs to stop shooting so many 3 pointers. Almost all of his success if any ends up in the paint, so he needs to capitalize on what is remotely working. His confidence also needs to come back, and his teammates need to encourage him to get him out of his funk. We haven't seen Siakam run the floor for easy layups all series against the Celtics which is his bread and butter, nor have we seen his signature spin move in the lane at any point.
Game 7 won't be easy. Kemba Walker scored a measly 5 points in 54 minutes of playing time. Rest assured that will not happen again. Tatum, Smart, and Brown will be out for blood, but the Raptors won't go down without a fight. However, with that said, if Siakam doesn't help his teammates on the offensive end in game 7, there will likely be a new champion declared this season as the Toronto Raptors will be sent home packing.