By now, Raptors wing Pascal Siakam is no longer a shock. Sure, the 24-year-old dropping 44 on Washington a couple of weeks ago was surprising, but no one is doubting that Siakam is solidly one of the best basketball players in the Eastern Conference. Perhaps the only unknown quantity in Siakam’s game is what his ceiling might actually be, because he keeps finding new ways to run the Raptors’ conference foes off the court.
On Tuesday, it was the Boston Celtics’ turn to face the wrath of “Spicy P,” as Siakam scored 25 points on just 16 shots. He started hot, hitting three corner three-pointers in the first quarter as Boston inexplicably sagged off someone who’s shooting a scorching 48.6 percent from deep in the month of February:
Siakam also bullied Boston in the paint, particularly in the third quarter. The gem of his drives and funky post-moves was a coast-to-coast transition dunk after grabbing one of his two steals on the night. He might not have Giannis Antetokounmpo’s video game strides, but he has the same relentlessness in attacking the basket on the fast break.
Siakam, who’s still a bit raw, will sometimes lose control, particularly when posting up, but everything was working for him on Tuesday. Take this janky post-up on the smaller and potentially fraudulent Kyrie Irving. At no point does Siakam look like he’s actually in control of his stretchy limbs, but because he’s so skilled, it turns a likely turnover into an ugly floater. Two points is two points:
On the other side of the floor, Siakam is still sometimes prone to getting lost in rotations, but his pure athleticism lets him recover and shut down opponents’ drives, as he did to Irving, again, midway through the third quarter:
Notice how Siakam bumps Irving at the top of the arc to slow him down just enough that he can keep up with him in order to swat his floater into the crowd. That’s a veteran move, and surely one that he’s picked up from Kawhi Leonard, one of the league’s most obnoxiously proficient defensive players. Siakam could do worse than following Leonard’s career path as a three-and-D protoype, though he’s even more athletic than the former Spurs cornerstone.
In February, Siakam’s racked up the best net rating of any of Toronto’s star-studded starting lineup: the Raptors are 13.3 points better than opponents when he’s on the floor, compared to 6.7 for Leonard and 7.6 for Kyle Lowry. (Side note: Man, the Raptors are good.) His true-shooting percentage has soared to 61.6 percent this month, even as he’s taking more shots than ever (14.7 per game); that percentage is second on the team only to sharpshooter Danny Green.
How do you slow down Siakam? The top teams in the Eastern Conference will have to figure that out, and soon. Focus on him, and he’s a deft enough passer to find any of his theoretically more talented teammates, but leave him alone, as the Celtics did in the first quarter, and he can shoot you into oblivion. Even when Siakam has an off-night on the offensive side, he’s a formidable enough defender to screw up an opponent’s gameplan.