We’re going to label this one Pascal Siakam’s hold-on-a-minute-there game.
In this ever knee-jerk landscape — and, yes, we’re very much a part of that — Siakam was the subject of a wide selection of unsolicited advice after a couple of very quiet games, mostly directed at the people who employ him and ultimately decide whether he stays or goes.
The suggestion was his time was up in Toronto and it was time to move on from the most accomplished and experienced scorer on the roster.
Siakam, through it all — even at its height which seemed to come after the win in San Antonio when he took just 12 shots and made just two — said it was simply a matter of time before he figured out his role within the new offence.
Then Wednesday night, against a team that was bereft of any rim protection to speak of, Siakam went off for a season-high 31 points on a season-high 25 attempts.
It’s unlikely this will completely quiet the calls to move him sooner rather than later, but it was again proof that he hasn’t forgotten or lost the ability to score in bunches.
And it’s almost a certainty that this one game or even those previous few. when he was so quiet. will alone dictate whether Siakam remains a Raptor or is dealt away.
Team president and vice chairman Masai Ujiri was very clear at the beginning of the year that he was very much in a wait-and-see mode when it came to committing to any of his players with contract questions looming.
That group starts with Siakam and includes OG Anunoby and Gary Trent Jr., all three of which can become unrestricted free agents this summer if they are not offered extensions. Anunoby has a player option that he would almost certainly decline.
Ujiri moved on from his NBA title-winning coach in Nick Nurse and entrusted Darko Rajakovic with changing the culture of this team, a team that Ujiri himself had trouble watching with any enjoyment a year ago.
Rajakovic has done his part, changing the offence, the defence and, with contributions from up and down the roster, the mood or vibe on his team.
Other than Scottie Barnes, and probably even a little more than even him, Siakam’s role on the team has seen the biggest change.
A year ago, the ball was in his hands at the end of the vast majority of offensive possessions. Sometimes it was in there for the entirety of the possession.
That is not the way things are this year and it has meant Siakam has had to adapt. We’ve seen him shoot less volume as the ball is shared more and moved more frequently. We’ve seen him shoot more threes, too.
But until Wednesday night, we hadn’t seen him shoot a majority of the Raptors shots in a given night.
His best game to date in this young season was a 26-point effort in a surprisingly easy 130-111 win over Milwaukee. But in that game he took eight threes and made five. For the night, he took a total of 13 shots.
This was different.
This was the old Siakam — with a twist. Yes, he was taking the bulk of the shots, but he was doing it in rhythm. The decisions were quick and in the flow of the offence. It wasn’t dribble into the paint, dribble back out, reset, and then try another attack without ever getting off the ball.
It was quick decisions and quick bursts to get where he needed to get to.
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Obviously, it was helped by the Mavericks’ porous interior defence on this night, but it was the right way both for Siakam and within the Rajakovic system. Quick decisions not allowing the defence to get set. Plenty of transition buckets with an advantage in numbers going against a scrambling defence.
In short, this was a game situation built for Siakam’s speed and athleticism. He wasn’t taking the shots because he decided to take the shots. He was taking the shots because he was the best option.
Come Saturday night in Boston, that may no longer be the case. That defence is anything but porous, assuming decent health. Chances are very good that will not be a game in which Siakam takes 25 shots.
It’s all about finding a balance and, to steal some of Siakam’s own words, “playing the game the right way.”
What Siakam proved on Wednesday night is there is a world where he and Barnes, along with OG Anunoby, Dennis Schroder and Jakob Poeltl, can co-exist and make it work.