The Toronto Raptors six-game road trip continued on Thursday, falling to the Utah Jazz to get out to an 0-2 start on the West Coast.
The loss brings Toronto's losing streak to three games despite a strong performance from the backcourt of Gary Trent Jr. and Fred VanVleet, who poured in 31 and 24 points, respectively. They had no answer for the Jazz's depth, who had four bench players score double figures, led by Rudy Gay's season-best 20 points.
This adds to what has been a tough day of news for the Raptors, which included the announcement that starting forward OG Anunoby will be out for "a while" with a hip injury.
However, this contest marked the fifth appearance from All-Star forward Pascal Siakam this season, who missed Toronto's first 10 games due to offseason shoulder surgery. Siakam struggled mightily, going for just four points, five assists, three rebounds and two steals while shooting 2-for-14 from the field, continuing what has been an up-and-down comeback to start the year.
Now that we've had a small dose of Siakam's first few games back, how has the forward looked coming off of surgery?
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Five game check-in on Pascal Siakam
Siakam's return to the floor has had its ups and downs.
As you'd expect from a player coming back from shoulder surgery, Siakam looked a little rusty in his first game against the Brooklyn Nets. His energy and effort was there, but other aspects like his shooting touch around the basket seemed off. That remained the case in his second game back against the Boston Celtics - his least productive game since his return - but after taking the second night of a back-to-back off for injury recovery purposes, Siakam looked like his usual self for the next two games.
Even in a disappointing loss to the Detroit Pistons, Siakam looked like a former All-Star, going for 25 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists while shooting an efficient 9-for-14 from the field and 2-for-3 from 3.
We saw glimpses of a player who is getting his touch back, as evidence of knocking down some classic Siakam dribble-drive midrange pull-ups.
According to NBA stats, Siakam entered Thursday night's contest against the Jazz shooting a combined 7-for-19 (36.8%) from the paint (non-restricted area) and midrange since his return, which is lower than usual for a player who creates a lot of his scoring looks from those areas.
But with that being said, the majority of Siakam's points come within the restricted area, where his early-season shooting percentage is higher than the past few years (albeit a very small sample size), converting 75.0 percent of his attempts prior to the Jazz game.
However, after shooting 2-for-14 from the field against Utah, those percentages will surely drop to a less-impressive figure.
We've still seen moments where he's using his patented energy to score inside, like this play below where he hustled for an offensive board and putback, sacrificing his body to keep the Raptors' hopes alive late against Detroit.
He followed up that strong performance with another one against the Portland Trail Blazers, going for 20 points, six boards and six assists on a fairly efficient night, shooting 46.7 percent from the field.
It was in that game where we saw Siakam begin to get comfortable attacking off the dribble, really getting a feel for his touch around the basket.
His playmaking ability hasn't waivered, so ironing out his handle, shooting touch and finishing around the basket will be the next step to returning to his usual offensive prowess.
Now with Anunoby expected to miss an extended period of time, it becomes even more crucial that Siakam gets in a rhythm on the floor and retakes his role as one of the Raptors' primary scorers. Anunoby was amidst a breakout season where he was averaging a team-high 20.1 points per game, and that scoring responsibility immediately falls on Siakam to get back to being a go-to option.
We've seen spurts of Siakam taking steps toward returning to an All-Star-calibre player. The challenge is doing it consistently, where Toronto can really on him every night to keep the team in the playoff hunt until Anunoby returns.
Of course, others like Fred VanVleet, Scottie Barnes and Gary Trent Jr. also have to step up in Anunoby's absence, but if they maintain their current level of play and Siakam can get back to full strength, the Raptors should be just fine for the time being.
Toronto will look to bounce back from another tough loss on Friday, Nov. 18 when they travel to take on the Sacramento Kings at 10 p.m. ET on SN One.
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