Game 7 is the perfect time for Pascal Siakam to reemerge for the Toronto Raptors
Through the first six games of this Eastern Conference Semifinals matchup between the Toronto Raptors and Boston Celtics, the defending champions have found a way to survive largely without its best player playing like their best player.
Heading into Game 7, however, the Raptors are likely going to need Pascal Siakam to reemerge in order for them to be successful. During the regular season, Siakam was often the team’s best player and certainly their leading-scorer on most nights.
During the first six games against the Celtics, though, he’s been struggling mightily. In those games, Siakam is averaging just 15 points and seven rebounds on 39 percent shooting from the field and 11 (!!!) percent shooting from 3-point range.
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For much of the series, Siakam has played uncharacteristically and has been nothing more than just a decoy on most nights. Even though the Raptors, largely due to the play of Kyle Lowry, have been able to win three games and force a Game 7 without huge production from Siakam, Game 7 would be an ideal time for him to step up and reemerge as an offensive leader for a team that has struggled mightily on that end of the floor in this series.
However, just dumping the ball off to Siakam to start the game or giving him ISO offensive possessions every so often down the court isn’t the way to do so. Against an individual defender as good as Jaylen Brown, who has often been the primary defender on Siakam through the first six games of this series, I don’t think Siakam is going to be abe to figure that out single-handedly.
That means Raptors coach Nick Nurse devising a plan that will get Siakam in his comfort zones in the offense easily. That potentially means working the pick-and-roll until Siakam can’t get a smaller defender to switch on to him. That could mean getting him to work the mid-range game more than just waiting at the 3-point line for a pass out.
Thus far, the Celtics have been willing to give Siakam the 3-point shot. He hasn’t been hitting that and Boston has been willing to live with him hitting a couple. So far Siakam hasn’t been able to do that consistently enough.
Interestingly enough, Siakam has done his limited damage in this series from outside the paint, but inside the 3-point line. He’s been great from mid-range. Even though the league hasn’t embraced that shot as the offense continues to evolve analytically, I can’t help but wonder if Nurse elects to try and get Siakam going by scheming him open with what’s worked with him thus far in this series – his mid-range jumper.
The Raptors know what they’re going to get from both Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet – even if their shot isn’t on, they’re going to punish opposing backcourts with their relentlessness and will give a great effort on the defensive side of the court.
For Toronto to win Game 7, send the Boston Celtics home, and advance to play the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals, they’re going to need Pascal Siakam to set up in a big way. If he can help the Raptors into the Eastern Conference Finals, you’d have to believe that no one will remember his struggle through the first six games of this series. As we’ve seen thus far, however, that’s one big “if.”