After he took another leap in the 2019-20 regular season, the 2020 postseason did not go as anticipated for Toronto Raptors forward Pascal Siakam.
It's no secret that the first-time All-Star struggled throughout the playoffs, posting averages of 17.0 points, 7.5 rebounds and 3.8 assists while shooting just 39.6% from the field and 18.9% from deep. In Toronto's five-point Game 7 loss to the Boston Celtics, Siakam finished with just 13 points (on 5-for-12 shooting) and11 rebounds while committing five turnovers.
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Following the season-ending loss, Siakam acknowledged his struggles and took the blame for the Raptors coming up short.
"Obviously, I have to be better," Siakam told reporters postgame. "Definitely a low moment for me, just a learning experience. Just knowing that you gotta be ready and I wasn't able to really help my teammates and stuff so, yeah, I take a lot of the blame."
Siakam continued, vowing to improve and come back better next season: "Just, continue to work. It's a learning experience for me. Continue to learn, get back to the drawing board and come back better.
"That's something that I've always been able to do as a player so I gotta just got back and figure it out. I think we had great chances, we hung in there, trying to find ways to win the games that we played. I feel like I didn't really give what was expected from me and I definitely take a lot of the blame but I think, as a team, we played well and we fought."
In just his fourth season, Siakam has rapidly ascended to the level he finds himself at now. In 2017, he played a total of 10 playoff minutes and after serving as a key reserve in the 2018 playoffs, Siakam has been a full-time starter over the last two postseasons, becoming the team's No. 1 offensive option in 2020 after Kawhi Leonard's departure last offseason.
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He denied that any additional pressure came with his new role.
"There's no excuses, we're all pros and you have to be ready," Siakam said. "I don't think it was anything pressure-wise, I just feel like I wasn't my best and when I'm at my best, this team's unbelievable. You gotta be at your best at these times, and I feel like I wasn't."
Ultimately, Siakam acknowledged that lofty expectations come with the territory of being an All-Star and max contract player, saying "at the end of the day, it's a part of being in this league and being at the level I'm supposed to be at. It's a learning experience and a lot of people go through these moments and I just feel like it's about responding.
"What response are you going to get from it? How are you going to take it? Are you going to take it as a learning experience or are you just going to feel sorry for yourself? Because, at the end of the day, nobody's going to feel sorry for you."
Considering the odds that Siakam has overcome to become the player he is today, it's safe to say a playoff letdown won't throw him off of his path.
"I come from a background of just always working hard and fighting my way through everything that was thrown at me and I just feel like this is another step for me. I came in the league - wasn't supposed to be here - but I fought my way here and I proved that I belong…
"Losing sucks but it's an experience and all the greats go through it and you have to learn from it. If you want to be considered one of the best players you have to be able to rise from these moments and that's something that I plan to do."
Listen to Siakam's media availability in its entirety here, beginning at the 56:30 mark.
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