Toronto Raptors budding star forward Pascal Siakam was listed as "doubtful" ahead of Game 4 against the Philadelphia 76ers with a right calf contusion, but has been upgraded to a 'game time decision'.
Raptors' head coach Nick Nurse stated before the game that Siakam will go through warmups and see if he'll be able to play. Nurse stated that he met with Siakam this morning and that his calf has not gotten any worse, but if he were to miss the contest, Serge Ibaka, Fred VanVleet or 'one other guy' will start in his position per The Athletic's Eric Koreen.
The report came as a surprise, as Siakam played 35 minutes without any sign of injury in the Raptors' Game 3 loss.
This is less than ideal for Toronto, whose supporting cast around Kawhi Leonard has been insufficient through the first three games of this series as the team trails 2-1.
Siakam has been the only other player performing to the level he did all season, averaging 23.3 points, 5.7 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 1.7 steals per game. He's been the second-best player for the Raptors this postseason and it would be a huge hit to their offensive production if they would be without him in Game 4.
pic.twitter.com/Zpl7qXMd9X- William Lou (@william_lou) May 4, 2019
So who would fill Siakam's spot in the starting lineup if he does miss this next game?
The favourite to win this season's Most Improved Player award only missed two games all season. The Raptors split those games 1-1, losing to the Denver Nuggets and defeating the Chicago Bulls.
Head coach Nick Nurse went with two completely different starting lineups in those games, with one of Siakam's missed games occurring prior to the Marc Gasol trade.
Against the Nuggets, Nurse went with a starting lineup of Delon Wright, CJ Miles, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard and Serge Ibaka.
Against the Bulls, it was a starting five of Fred VanVleet, Kyle Lowry, Danny Green, Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol.
Those lineups don't add much insight to whom Nurse would fill the starting lineup with Siakam's potential absence in a playoff game, other than that Ibaka was a part of both starting units.
He could elect to go with the veteran forward Ibaka, but he hasn't exactly been playing the best basketball this postseason. His offensive game has gotten away from him, averaging just 4.3 points on 30.0 percent shooting from the field this series. He hasn't been great defensively either.
I think it would be in the Raptors' best interest to go with Norman Powell, a quicker and more athletic forward who has provided Toronto with some decent minutes off the bench these playoffs. He matches up better with the 76ers' starting five and would be a more seamless transition on the defensive end, guarding Tobias Harris or Jimmy Butler.
It's a killer that OG Anunoby is still unavailable, as he would be the perfect player to fill Siakam's spot should he miss Game 4, but Nurse will have to make adjustments with the players he has available, and Powell and Ibaka look like the top two options.
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