TORONTO – Nick Nurse’s Raptors groups have traditionally carried out ‘subsequent man up’ effectively.
Through the 2018-19 marketing campaign, they famously went 17-5 on Kawhi Leonard’s load-management nights, benefiting from their report for the championship run.
The subsequent season they misplaced Leonard and endured lengthy absences from virtually all of their key gamers – a lot of them overlapping – on their strategy to being the second greatest membership within the Co- converse the East.
As of final week, that they had received two of three contests with out their beginning guard, Fred VanVleet – beating Atlanta and San Antonio by a mixed margin of 73 factors earlier than falling simply quick at Dallas, 111 -100, Friday.
Sadly, simply as they had been coming again late within the third quarter of that recreation, Pascal Siakam slipped on the Mavericks courtroom and landed awkwardly. The star went below a tattoo on his groin on Saturday evening, revealing a pressure on his proper muscle. The harm will sideline him for not less than two weeks and he shall be re-evaluated from there.
It is a robust break for the participant and the workforce. Siakam entered his seventh season with the said purpose of constructing on final 12 months’s All-NBA Third Group choice and changing into a top-five participant within the league. It was an bold bar to set, however one which was beginning to look extra achievable with the sport.
At the moment a 12 months in the past, Siakam was nonetheless recovering from offseason shoulder surgical procedure. Right here, he was wholesome, coming off a robust summer season, and enjoying one of the best basketball of his profession. Earlier than his harm, he was considered one of three gamers to attain 20 or extra factors in eight straight video games to open the season, becoming a member of Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant. He’s considered one of 4 gamers presently main his workforce in factors, rebounds and assists, together with Curry, red-hot Luka Doncic and reigning two-time MVP Nikola Jokic.
“It is positively a ache that it is taking place,” Nurse mentioned simply earlier than her workforce hosted the Chicago Bulls on Sunday. “He had been enjoying very effectively, and because it occurs, slipping on a moist flooring, it is disappointing. It’s a must to play one other recreation, so what occurs? We want some guys to step up. They’ll get alternatives to possibly do extra and we’ll see what occurs.”
The Raptors handed their first take a look at. In the event that they wanted a plan on learn how to play to win video games whereas their key offensive participant is out, a gritty 113-104 win ought to present the best way.
It wasn’t fairly. He normally will not be with out Siakam, who averaged 24.8 factors, 9.3 rebounds and seven.7 assists earlier than the harm. The offense was anticipated to be very noisy at occasions, a bit uneven with a bit of an excessive amount of dribbling on the perimeter, exhausting pictures early within the clock and guys driving aimlessly into visitors.
Nonetheless, they greater than made up for it via effort and can. The Raptors scored 27 factors off their 23 offensive rebounds. They pressured 23 turnovers, which resulted in 23 factors. They blocked 10 pictures, together with six from rookie seven-footer Christian Koloko, and performed with pressure across the rim, outscoring Chicago 62-38 within the paint.
Coming back from a sore again, VanVleet led the workforce in each factors (30) and assists (11). He, OG Anunoby and Scottie Barnes mixed for 71 factors and 18 of Toronto’s 28 assists, whereas Koloko turned in his greatest recreation as a professional, and so they bought good minutes from Chris Boucher, Otto Porter Jr. . and veteran Thaddeus Younger was used sparingly off the bench.
Nurse’s largest concern, sans Siakam, was how his workforce fared late in shut video games. Effectively, on Sunday, after Chicago went up by six factors early within the fourth quarter, Toronto closed out the competition on a 30-15 run.
With 5 minutes left, VanVleet drove to the bucket and had a layup. Younger adopted up the shot however missed a pair putback makes an attempt; Boucher additionally hit the ball earlier than their relentless effort on the boards paid off, with Anunoby finally changing and ending the play.
Toronto spent the evening aggressively doubling DeMar DeRozan on catches, resulting in a irritating evening for the previous Raptor. With 90 seconds left, three Raptors gamers bought their palms on the ball, knocking it away from DeRozan and releasing Anunoby for the dagger-back slam dunk in transition, placing the house workforce up by 9 factors.
“That is the NBA,” VanVleet mentioned afterward. “I do know we make drama every single day, however yearly I have been within the league there’s been guys [who get] damage for intervals. So, subsequent one up and everyone simply keep prepared and keep ready, and there shall be alternatives [across] the desk.”
For reference, Siakam was sidelined for 3 and a half weeks and missed 11 video games with a groin-like harm in 2019. There’s hope that he’ll get well sooner this time, however the return is prone to be late November or early December is cheap.
With out him within the lineup, 36 minutes and practically 20 pictures an evening can be found, however it can take multiple or two to fill that void.
VanVleet’s profession should look extra like Sunday – when he tried 22 pictures, together with 13 threes – than it did earlier within the season, when he was enjoying off the ball extra typically and intentionally surrendering some scoring and playmaking duties to Siakam. and others.
With VanVleet out final week, Barnes was the place to begin guard and bought helpful reps to begin the offense, which ought to assist with out Siakam. They’ll proceed to assist the proficient sophomore in that function.
Anunoby, who has been spectacular to open the season, has been clamoring for extra accountability on the offensive finish. He averaged 20.6 factors and seemed like a star in Siakam’s 10 missed begins final season, so he has the potential to take his recreation to a different degree as the middle of the offense. That is his likelihood to point out that he’s prepared for it each evening.
Koloko will doubtless proceed to begin so long as Siakam is out. This final efficiency confirmed how his size and skill to guard the rim might assist create offense via protection. Younger, who had solely logged 17 minutes within the earlier six video games, ought to have the ability to assist heavy beginning items with passing and chopping. They will even be extra alternatives for Boucher, Porter and Treasured Achiuwa to make an influence off the bench.
Not like Sunday, there shall be nights when scoring is not going to be simple. With out Siakam on the ground to take stress off VanVleet, anticipate groups to blitz the Raptors’ level guard and attempt to take the ball out of his palms. If he does not look good and the opposite guys aren’t flattening their pictures, you will really feel the burden of Siakam’s absence.
Coming into Sunday’s recreation, the Raptors scored 116.6 factors with Siakam on the ground. That quantity dropped to 109.4 with out him.
Happily, after a troublesome begin to the season, the schedule will start to ease in November. After finishing the second half of a home-and-home with Chicago on Monday, the Raptors will face 4 straight groups tied for the lottery: Houston, Oklahoma Metropolis, Indiana and Detroit.
Whatever the opponent, the Raptors have confirmed that they’ll win with out Siakam, or with out anybody else for that matter. Assuming they play like they did on Sunday, not solely will they survive, however they might thrive.
DeRozan was 19 years previous when the Raptors chosen him with the ninth total choose within the 2009 draft, and whereas he is by no means lacked confidence, he could not even have imagined the newest milestone to achieve him.
Fittingly, on a mid-range shot towards his former workforce in San Antonio a few weeks in the past, DeRozan grew to become the fiftieth participant ever to attain 20,000 profession factors.
“By no means [expected that early in my career]” the Bulls ahead – now 33 and in his 14th professional season – admitted to TSN earlier than Sunday’s recreation in Toronto. “I might be mendacity if I instructed you I did. Even once I bought it, it introduced me up. It did not hit me till a few days later. That is a variety of f—ing factors.”
DeRozan had an opportunity to hit the plateau at residence towards Indiana a few days earlier. As a substitute, he was comfortable to do it in San Antonio, the place he spent three seasons, and towards his former coach Gregg Popovich, who instantly referred to as time to acknowledge the milestone .
“I really feel previous after they do this [stuff like that]”, DeRozan joked.
DeRozan joins a novel membership, which incorporates one of the best scorers in NBA historical past. He’s the seventh lively participant to achieve 20K, becoming a member of LeBron James, Durant, James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul and Curry.
13,296 of these factors got here in his 9 seasons with Toronto. DeRozan, the franchise’s all-time main scorer, believes somebody will overtake him someday, however the present Raptor’s closest — Siakam, who leapfrogged Morris Peterson for sixth — is not even midway there.
At his present tempo of about 23 factors per contest, Siakam might want to play practically 300 extra video games in Toronto to catch DeRozan – so, 4 or 5 very wholesome seasons.
Though DeRozan is 4 years and a few groups faraway from the commerce that despatched him to the Spurs for Leonard and ended his iconic Raptors profession, the veteran ahead does not seem like near develop slower.
Regardless of Sunday’s irritating outing — he was held to twenty factors and tried simply 9 pictures towards his former workforce — DeRozan stays one of many league’s main scorers.
Assuming he has three or 4 extra years at or close to this degree, and given his consistency, it is not loopy to assume he might crack the highest 20 there the all-time scoring by the point he calls it a profession.
“He can actually rating,” mentioned Nurse, an assistant coach in DeRozan’s ultimate seasons in Toronto. “And I feel his mid-range jumper is on autopilot. ‘ first time that involves thoughts, simply seeing them go in over and over. In the previous few years, he performs sooner, he goes to the basket much more and making actually fast selections. I feel he is improved his passing over the previous few years as effectively. However it’s a training clinic video on mid-range jumpers. “