Entering this year’s playoffs, the Toronto Raptors were seen as legitimate contenders after finishing second in the Eastern Conference. Their team-first playstyle, exquisite ball movement and their deep rotation, convinced everyone that their bid for a back-to-back this season is very possible.
However, things aren’t looking so good for the defending champs as they’re now down 2-3 against the Boston Celtics in the second round of the playoffs.
A big reason for their struggles is a major lack of spice.
Toronto has had great production from their other pieces. Fred VanVleet, Norman Powell, OG Anunoby and Serge Ibaka are all having a productive series, even Kyle Lowry who has a mixed track record of performances in the playoffs is playing decent against Boston.
However, Pascal Siakam is yet to have a big game in this series, which is a big problem. Despite the fact that the Raptors are relying on their team first playstyle, having a go-to-guy is a crucial for factor for a championship team.
In last year’s playoffs, Siakam surprised everyone by putting up 19 points on 47% shooting from the field. This year he’s shooting worse at 41% and has only been putting up the same numbers in rebounding and assists with seven boards and three dimes. Numbers not expected from supposed to be the man for a championship contending team – and someone who signed a $130 million contract extension before the season started.
In the second round series against the Celtics, the Cameroonian forward was expected to have a great series as no one from the Boston thanks to his great mix of physical gifts and on-court skills. It was meant to be his chance to prove himself as “THE MAN” for his team and not just a productive second option behind a superstar like Kawhi Leonard.
But it seems that Spicy P is pretty mild right now and he is having a very poor performance in the series. In the five games that they’ve played, he’s only putting up 15.8 points, 6.6 rebounds, 2.8 assists while shooting 41.5%.
In comparison, last year when Toronto faced the Philadelphia 76ers in the second round, Siakam put up 20.8 points, 5.6 rebounds, two assists, two steals in 43.9% shooting in the first five games of the series. He had better numbers as a sidekick than as the guy for his squad.
Siakam had his worst performance in this year’s playoffs in Game 5. He only finished with 10 points, four boards and two assists while racking up five personal fouls. In addition to that, his confidence seemed to have been affected as he only attempted nine shots the whole game. It’s possible that fatigue is starting to play a part, too. Between Game 2-4, he played 43, 38, and then 46 minutes. He only played 29 minutes in the last game because they were already well-defeated before the buzzer sounded.
He seems to be struggling with creating his own offense, too. That’s something that the Raptors sorely need especially in late game situations.
Toronto lost the last game 111-89 and are now on the verge of being bounced out of the playoffs.
If the Raptors’ lose this series in six games and Siakam fails to play like the go-to-guy for his team, his reputation and image as a sidekick will remain.
Some might say that it’s unfair to expect so much of him, but he’s 26 years old and is supposed to be the future of the franchise. If he’s going to seize the moment, he needs to do it now.
Otherwise, the defending champs are toast.