Four games. That’s how many times Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam, and OG Anunoby have taken the floor together for the Toronto Raptors this season. Whether it’s been injuries or health and safety protocols, the team’s core hasn’t had the opportunity to prove what they’re capable of on a nightly basis when all three suit up.

But against the Los Angeles Clippers on New Year’s Eve, there was a glimpse of that potential.

“We’ve missed those guys out there,” Siakam told reporters post-game. “Obviously we haven’t had the opportunity to be all together out there. We missed Scottie [Barnes] tonight, but we’re just continuing to work, trying to have everybody out there.”

Toronto’s titanic trio combined for 82 of the Raptors’ 116 total points. Each looked in their element for at least portions of the game, with VanVleet corralling the offense (nine assists), Siakam hammering the boards (19 rebounds) and creating from every angle, and Anunoby smothering opponents defensively and picking off errant passes (four steals) for open-court dunks.

And yet, the peak version of this group remains to be seen. The flashes have been potent and more than a little exciting, but to truly see what the core is capable of, it not only needs to spend more time together, it needs to be in full-blown, weathered game-shape.

“Just jello legs,” VanVleet said, having just returned from COVID protocols. “My timing was off, my release was a little off, a little slow. It’s part of the process, so. Work myself back in. I was happy with the way we kept fighting and we just were able to come out and get the victory.”

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With all that’s going in within and beyond the league, who knows if a consistent number of healthy games is a pragmatic possibility. Without that, though, analyzing the team feels almost fruitless, and idle exercise existing to merely keep pundits from getting bored.

There are micro-level game elements, however, that are worth examining. One such example is the VanVleet-Siakam pick-and-roll, which the Raptors ran down the stretch against the Clippers to eke out a tight victory. It’s an action that’s proven highly effective whenever utilized, with VanVleet having morphed into a much improved playmaking and legitimately lethal pull-up threat, and Siakam a slippery, fluid attacker on the roll who can see the next pass immediately if the defense converges.

“They’re a switching team and I felt like I have the advantage every time we switch,” Siakam said, “so we just tried to exploit those matchups and Freddy, also, if a bigger guy gets on him he can drive him and do different things. I think we just have the advantage on both sides and we just wanna move the defense. It worked tonight and we just kept running it.”

Somehow, the Raptors, currently sitting in 11th place in the East, are only 2.5 games back from the sixth-place Philadelphia 76ers. With so much of the campaign left, there’s plenty of time remaining for a run to be made and for a playoff appearance to become a reality.

But in order to cement that possibility, Toronto’s trio will simply have to spend more time on the floor together more often. And that means hoping for some good luck in the new year.

“It’s just good to have most of your weapons,” VanVleet said. “Obviously, we’re still missing Scottie but just trying to get all your weapons back on the court and find the pieces, find the rhythm.”