CHICAGO - Sunday was a memorable moment in the budding career of Toronto Raptors forward Pascal Siakam.
From Most Improved Player of the Year, to NBA champion and now, first-time All-Star, Siakam is progressing well in his career path.
As a member of Team Giannis, Siakam and his squad were dealt a tough loss at the hands of an Anthony Davis game-winning free throw that capped off an exhilarating fourth quarter in the first year of the new All-Star Game format.
The 25-year-old was on the floor at the end of the game - alongside Raptors teammate Kyle Lowry - trying to help Team Giannis come away with the win, but when Lowry fouled Davis on an entry pass in the paint, the Lakers star forward was rewarded with free throws that sealed the victory.
Despite the less-than-ideal ending, Siakam still enjoyed the new format in his first All-Star Game.
"I think it was great," Siakam told the media. "With how important each quarter was, it's an All-Star game and obviously nobody wants to get injured, but as a competitor you just want to win. At the beginning it was a little sluggish and then the intensity picked up."
You could feel the intensity rising in the building on each possession down the stretch. The All-Star Game is always loosely described as "the best pick-up game in the World" and for the first time, in the fourth quarter with each team trying to reach a finite number of 157 points to win the game, it actually felt that way.
For tangible evidence of the out-of-character All-Star Game defence, Lowry drew two charges in the final quarter to keep Team Giannis in the game.
And in Siakam's first All-Star appearance, he had the tough task of trying to stop his former teammate Kawhi Leonard on the game's closing possessions. Leonard was fantastic in this contest, going for 30 points, seven rebounds, four assists and two steals shooting 11-for-18 from the field and 8-for-14 from 3.
His efforts helped add some hardware to his trophy case, earning him the game's first-ever Kobe Bryant All-Star Game Most Valuable Player award, and Siakam enjoyed trying to stop him down the stretch.
"It was fun man. Obviously a player like him, playing with him before, knowing what he can do on the floor. It was fun guarding him. It wasn't like a game game, but just guarding each other, I enjoyed it."
And although it's hard to have any preconceived expectations without playing in an All-Star Game before, Siakam felt his first experience met his expectations.
"Watching it (on TV) it seems great, but it was different with the new format. It made it a little more competitive."
Siakam finished the game with 15 points shooting 7-for-10 from the field to go with six rebounds and a steal.
It was the first of what should be many All-Star Games to come for the Raptors' up-and-coming superstar.
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