The Toronto Raptors did what they were supposed to do in Game 1 of their series against the Brooklyn Nets. They dominated the lesser competition and secured a blowout win to go up 1-0 in the series.
Coming into the series, many expected Pascal Siakam to feast on the Nets, but following the Game 1 win, they may have been left wanting.
Siakam finished with 18 points, 11 rebounds but struggled from the field shooting just 30.8 percent. Postgame, the Raptors' forward did insinuate that there may have been some missed foul calls but ultimately took responsibility for the poor shooting night saying: "It's on me to finish."
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While the jury is still out on whether or not Siakam can carry the Raptors deep into the playoffs, his teammate Fred VanVleet is tired of the question being asked.
"No disrespect to you or anybody else but Pascal's good and I think we've got a great team of guys who are not really worried about the bottom line, not worried about what the stat line looks like after the game, just about getting wins and losses," VanVleet told reporters via Ryan Wolstat of Postmedia.
"So, if he's not playing great, in my eyes, I loved his intensity, loved his focus on the defensive end and I'm personally not going to be a part of that narrative that he needs to score more or he needs to be the No. 1 option or whatever the case may be for our team. As long as we're winning, I think that's all we care about."
There's some truth to what VanVleet said. Siakam doesn't have to be the leading scorer on this version of the Raptors every game for the team to be successful. That's what makes them so tough to beat and that's what's going to keep them in the playoffs longer than not. Siakam was also solid defensively and his value on that end of the court should never go unnoticed. Toronto was giving up 12.9 points per 100 possessions more with Siakam off the court in Game 1.
However, as I said on the Raptors Podtable Podcast post-game, Siakam does have to find ways to be a go-to scorer at points in the game. He does have to pick his spots and be more aggressive especially when the offence slows down or shots aren't falling.
In the third quarter of Game 1, the Nets came out of the locker room with energy and fight that Toronto simply didn't match. The Raptors needed a run-stopping basket multiple times during the period and it never really came. In the third, Siakam went 1-for-4 from the field and didn't record a single assist in the period. His one and only basket came 37 seconds into the quarter and he was relatively silent the rest of the way. Toronto needed someone to make a play and put a stop to the Nets' comeback attempt and Siakam was passive.
Ultimately, it didn't cost the Raptors anything and it probably won't in this series with the Nets. But as Toronto gets deeper in the playoffs they'll need a more aggressive and assertive Siakam to emerge.
He doesn't need to lead the team in scoring every night, but for the Raptors to be a serious title contender, Pascal Siakam has to find moments within the game where he dominates. The third quarter would've been that moment in Game 1, let's see if he can find the moment in Game 2.
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