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Pascal Siakam Did Not Throw Away His Shot (‘The Asphalt’ — NBA 2019 Finals Game 1 Notes)

The best part of Game 1 for me occurred right after the game at the post game Q&A. Pascal Siakam, Toronto’s star forward, was asked a question by a French speaking reporter. Siakam, up until that point, had answered a bunch of questions in English, with depth and humility. When the question in French came to him, the star from French speaking Cameroon, remained calm and smooth and never missed a beat (while I do not speak or understand French, he seemed quite comfortable answering) as he answered the question in French.

This is how Siakam’s entire night was as the Raptors beat the Warriors 118–109 in Toronto: calm, smooth and he never missed a beat (he barely missed a shot). He had 32 points, 5 assists, 8 rebounds, and 2 blocks. He was 14–17 from the field and 2–3 from beyond the three point line. He played 40 minutes and when Leonard found himself with two or three men on him, Siakam stepped into the void with fast break buckets, looping hoops around the rim, and he always was a threat to attack. Watching him, I kept thinking, this is where Kevin Durant would fit in for the Warriors and stop this barrage. But KD, as he is known, is injured and currently unavailable.

Joe Murphy (Getty Images)

Siakam is also playing with a heavy heart. His father, Tchamo, was killed in a car accident in Cameroon, in 2014. Siakam, who didn’t yet have a new visa, was unable to return home and attend the funeral. He has already stated he is playing this series for his father. And last night, he delivered a beauty of a basketball game for Pops.

Game 1 was the best evidence of Siakam’s rise in the 2018–19 NBA season even though he has had games like this before. He is moving up the ranks of the NBA big wing players who can shoot, handle, rebound, defend, and play with length and speed. He is, in other words, just the kind of player who is having great success in today’s NBA.

For the season, Siakam averaged 17 points and 7 rebounds, and shot 54 percent from the field (36 percent from the three). The significance of those numbers are, Siakam is only averaging 10–7 for his career and last year, he averaged 7–4 and only was getting 20 minutes per game (he is up to 31 per game this year).

It is also significant because in last year’s playoffs Siakam’s numbers were even lower and he spent much of the 2016–17 campaign bouncing back and forth from the G-League (D-League when Siakam played in it). Yet we should have known: he eventually led his G League team to the league championship while being named D League Finals MVP.

But Siakam, who has one year remaining on a bargain basement NBA contract ($2.3 million next year), is out in the world now. He will have to be dealt with by the Warriors and barring a collapse in his game, he will have to be dealt with for the next 5–10 years in the NBA.

Pascal Siakam’s rise is not a fluke either. At New Mexico, his college team, he played two years and he got really good very fast, becoming a 20 point per game guy by his second and last year playing. He also rose up in the D League quickly.

And now, he has shown a major leap in the NBA. For those of us back east who have been aware of him and watched him develop very quickly, this is no surprise. Game 1 the Warriors didn’t seem to remember he was on the Raptors roster. From here on out, they will surely mark him whenever he is on the court. Draymond Green has already vowed to take him out of the series. Game 1 of the NBA Finals and we already have a bit of a series thanks to the elevated play of Pascal Siakam.



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Editor —The Press Box. 4X Top Writer — Medium. Award winning poet. Lawyer for the poor. Love basketball.