Pascal Siakam really likes playing against Brandon Ingram.
The reigning MIP is averaging 39 points in two games against the Pelicans, with most of them coming against Ingram. He tied his career high last night with 44, as the Raptors beat the Pelicans 122-104.
After blowing the game open with a 45-point second quarter, the outcome was never in doubt — but it wasn’t all good news, as both Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka left the game with injuries.
The Bad News is Bad
Kyle Lowry hurt his (surgically repaired) thumb? Serge Ibaka sprained his ankle? That’s not what anyone wants to hear on a Friday night, during the first game of a five-game road trip.
I’m trying to look at the bright side here. Kyle gets extra rest, after leading the league in minutes thus far? The deep bench gets extra opportunities? I don’t know, it’s tough to see any positives here, especially with Marc Gasol and Fred VanVleet playing underwhelming ball, and Patrick McCaw already on the shelf.
Still, defending a championship isn’t supposed to be easy; it’s supposed to be a challenge. We all knew the Raptors were gonna have it tougher than most defending champs, and now it simply gets tougher. This season already felt like gravy; every win without Ibaka and Lowry is gonna feel like a playoff win at this point.
Pascal Siakam From Everywhere
If you watched the game or read the recap or even glanced at Twitter last night, then you know that Pascal Siakam was dominant; he scored with ease in the first half, and when the defense clamped down in the second (and without Kyle Lowry as a pressure release) he just kept working and wouldn’t let the Pelicans back in it.
What impressed me most of all was the variety of ways in which he scored, and the efficiency of his offense. Look at this shot chart:
One shot that wasn’t a three or in the paint, and of the other 27, they’re all around the perimeter and all over the paint.
It’s getting to the point where Siakam simply has no offensive weak spots.
Bench Depth Needed
Not to step on Reynolds’ beat here, but with injuries to Lowry and Ibaka, the Raptors’ depth is gonna be tested in the coming weeks — and last night had to give a modicum of confidence. Norman Powell had what might have been his best overall game of the season, and Chris Boucher was all over the floor, sprinting back on D, slamming home an offensive board and drawing a charge. Even Terence Davis and Matt Thomas had decent games; neither made a huge impact on the stat sheet but both showed hustle and generally found themselves in the right spots (although Thomas got beat on defense a couple times, and both Davis and Thomas bit on JJ Redick pump fakes).
Is it a springboard to something more? It had better be, because these next two guys are slumping.
Gonna Need More from Marc and Fred
Marc Gasol and Fred VanVleet were a combined 4-for-21 last night. They were 0-for-6 in the paint, and those six were mostly good looks — they’re simply struggling to finish at the rim.
At least Fred isn’t hesitant to shoot — 15 of those 21 attempts were his. Gasol remains terrified to put the ball up, and that hesitation continues to cause issues: late in the third, he passed up an open look, attempted to dribble into the lane and threw a pass that Pascal Siakam wasn’t expecting, and Siakam turned it over.
I really thought that hesitation would go away this year, as Gasol had more time to integrate himself into the Raptors offense, and without Kawhi Leonard dominating the ball. But it’s still there, and it’s frustrating.
As for VanVleet, there’s this, which is... disconcerting:
Well, there is the very real possibility he is playing a tad bit hurt since the opening game. https://t.co/vuyZAY5iEZ— (((Eric Koreen))) (@ekoreen) November 9, 2019
If VanVleet is hurt, and the Raptors are gonna need him to play even more minutes... they could be in real trouble.
That’s a Pretty Play
For all the concerns about the injuries and depth, the Raptors still have Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby. And that makes me feel pretty good.
The reunion with Kawhi Leonard on Monday won’t be the same if Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka aren’t available. Let’s just hope they’e back and healthy by the time Kawhi returns to Toronto next month!