Pascal Siakam wasted no time showing the Toronto Raptors he will be worth every penny of the four-year, $130 million extension he signed last week, pouring in a smashing 34 points and 18 rebounds in a 130-122 season-opening win over the New Orleans Pelicans in overtime.
The Raptors looked shaky for three quarters, but were able to bounce back in true championship form after getting their rings right before the game tipped off. While Siakam wound up fouling out at the end of regulation, it was still a tour de force performance and a major statement to the doubters.
Siakam was an absolute destroyer on the glass, using his long arms and his athleticism to snare six offensive rebounds and getting to the line constantly against a Pelicans team that lit up the 3-point line with the likes of JJ Redick, Josh Hart and rookie Nicolo Melli.
As expected, Siakam’s usage rate was through the roof without Kawhi Leonard, parting the sea for the fourth-year wing to wreak havoc on the Pelicans, despite a poor collective shooting night for Toronto. Siakam joined Vince Carter (Dec. 7, 2001) as the only players in Raptors history with 30 points, 15 rebounds, and five assists in a game, while also becoming the fourth player in the last 40 seasons to accomplish the feat in a season opener:
Siakam was everything the Raptors were hoping he’d be: assertive, unafraid, and not scared of the moment.
His searing drives to the basket, constant nose for the offensive rebound, and willingness to find his teammates kept the Raptors alive in a game they could have well lost against a young Pelicans team, forcing overtime after trading buckets in the last minutes of regulation.
The Cameroonian didn’t shoot it particularly well, but he did attempt 26 shots throughout regulation and canned two of his five 3-point attempts — already showing an improvement from last season, when he was mostly confined to his comfortable corner area.
Tuesday’s season opener has all the lights of the indication that Siakam is taking this season with the right approach and the proper mentality to become the go-to-player from here on out. Even if some of his veteran teammates are traded at some point this season, he should remain the bastion of this franchise moving forward, as he makes his ascension from Most Improved Player to a likely All-Star in the making.