It was a rough series for Pascal Siakam. Brutal, really.
In seven games against Boston he averaged 14.9 points a game (down from 22.9 during the regular season), he shot 38.2% overall (45.3%) and 12.5% from three (35.9%). With gutty but undersized playmaking guards in Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet, Toronto needed someone who could create their own shot and shoot over the top of defenders. Siakam could not do it against the long, physical, athletic defenders of Boston.
After the Raptors lost in Game 7 Friday night, Pascal Siakam fell on the sword and took the blame for the struggles of Toronto’s halfcourt offense.
“I take a lot of the blame, man,” Siakam said. “It was definitely a learning moment for me just learning from this experience and just learning that you’ve gotta be ready and I wasn’t able to help my teammates. I take a lot of the blame…
“Obviously, I felt like I didn’t really give what was expected from me, and I definitely take a lot of that blame. But as a team, I think we played well and we fought. Like, that’s something that we did all season when things weren’t going well. We always fought and till the end, and I’m proud of those guys and I think everyone gave everything they had and, like I said, obviously, I’ve got to do better.”
Some on NBA Twitter have ripped Siakam for his performance, mostly because big picture thinking is lost in that swirling vortex. Siakam is going to improve from this experience and be the anchor of whatever comes next north of the border when Marc Gasol and Kyle Lowry are gone.
Siakam, 25, has played just four NBA seasons and made a leap in each one — he won Most Improved Player a year ago and made another big jump this season. He puts in the work.
He played brilliantly before the pandemic hit, and during the season Pascal Siakam was able to step into that Kawhi Leonard role of shot-creator in the halfcourt and do it at an All-Star level — that is an important thing. He didn’t run into trouble until the bubble, and until he ran into a very good defensive team in Boston that could roll out Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, and Daniel Theis at him. The Celtics had the fourth-best defense in the league in the regular season for a reason.
Expect Siakam to come back better than ever. Here is what coach Nick Nurse said about him after the loss, via Blake Murphy at The Athletic.
“I’m really confident. I think there has been nothing but progress like this (climbing a ladder) for him, and this was a weird and unique scenario. Again, I can’t stress enough how well he was playing leading into this pandemic break,” coach Nick Nurse said. “He was absolutely dominating game down the stretch for us, either at the basket or shooting the ball or kicking it out for wide-open shots. For whatever reason, all of us have been affected differently by this, but I’m not going to sit here and try to read too much into it. I think we’ve got to get to work. I totally believe in the kid. He’s a great person and a hard worker, and his trajectory was heading skyward rapidly. He answered every call. This is a minor setback for him that he can build from.”
Siakam is going to get better from this experience. Next time, Boston is not going to find it quite so easy to slow him down.