In terms of value, Pascal Siakam had arguably the biggest game of his career.
In Game 1 of the 2019 NBA Finals, he scored 32 points on a super-efficient 14-of-17 shooting while also grabbing eight rebounds and dishing out five assists. He also registered a couple of blocks and finished with two makes on his three 3-point attempts.
Speaking on what helped him erupt to a game like this, Siakam said:
"I think obviously getting some easy buckets in transition, something that I haven't really been able to do all playoffs, and I think just being able to run and getting easy baskets at the rim. And then from there just playing, just playing whatever defense gives me, that's why I always say, kind of playoff of that and whatever is open, just taking it with confidence and believing in myself."
His 32 points are a playoff and Finals career-high but what was more impactful was the efficiency with which Siakam scored.
Pascal Siakam (32 PTS, 14-17 FGM - 82.4%) is the 7th player in #NBAFinals history to score 30+ points on 80% shooting or better. The only other players to accomplish this feat are:- NBA.com/Stats (@nbastats) May 31, 2019
Shaquille O'Neal pic.twitter.com/LeC2u20SUd
His 82.4% shooting en route to scoring 32 put his name alongside some elite company.
While Siakam says that he still has "so much room to improve", the journey so far has been incredible in itself.
The Cameroon national was drafted 27th overall in the 2016 Draft by the Raptors. His minutes in the regular season (20.7 to 31.9) and playoffs (17.9 to 36.2) witnessed a huge jump from last season but Siakam didn't let his efficiency slip.
In fact, he balled out and became a finalist for the 2018-19 Most Improved Player Award.
"I think, man, it's amazing and it just proves that if you put the work in, man, and it's something that it's so cliché most of the time, but that's the story of my life, just going out there every single night, working hard to get to this level, and knowing that I have so much to learn and I have so much room to improve and grow."
Siakam made his impact in the third quarter of the game when he scored 14 of his 32 points.
Pascal Siakam, welcome to the NBA Finals. He scored a team-high 32 points for the Raptors, the most in an NBA Finals debut since Kevin Durant in 2012 (36).- ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 31, 2019
Siakam made 11 straight FG tonight, the longest streak in any Finals game over the last 20 seasons.
(h/t @EliasSports) pic.twitter.com/gg6Fp6gP6S
His offence in the third period allowed the Raptors to stay ahead in the game and not allow the Warriors to have their vaunted third-quarter runs, something Siakam and the Raptors were well aware of.
"I think it's obviously known that they always come out in halves and put pressure on you, and I think we knew that. I mean, obviously tonight we were able to stop them. But we know that it's a point of emphasis, and we know we got to come out of halves in general. We can't have slow starts or slow halves."
"Just doing it for my dad," Siakam said to Doris Burke, in his oncourt postgame interview, on dealing with the pressure of playing in his first career Finals game.
He put that in perspective and gave a little more insight into that in the postgame press conference.
"I know people always usually tell me that I know he's [Siakam's father] proud of you, and I kind of want to hear it from his mouth and I think it would be really cool. But for me like I always say, man, it's bigger than basketball, and every night that I go out there, I have a bigger purpose, and I play for something bigger than just basketball"
While the Game 1 victory was sweet, Siakam and the Raptors would love to successfully defend home court once again in Game 2 and carry a 2-0 series lead to Oakland.
For the full broadcast schedule of the 2019 NBA Finals, click here.