Pascal Siakam shines in Raptors' win, but Ibaka and Lowry leave with injuries
Pair of key players exit rout of Pelicans in New Orleans
The Toronto Raptors tried to balance celebrating an impressive performance by Pascal Siakam and concern over injuries to two of their top players.
Siakam matched a career high with 44 points in the Raptors' 122-104 win over the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday night.
As Siakam drained shots, Toronto's medical staff was evaluating injuries to starting point guard Kyle Lowry and sixth-man Serge Ibaka.
Lowry suffered a fractured left thumb and Ibaka has a severely sprained ankle. That means the defending NBA Champions will likely be depleted — at least in the immediate future.
But, Siakam showed again Friday he can lead the Raptors to victories as his 44 points matched the career high from a game against the Washington Wizards on Feb. 13. The NBA's Most Improved Player last season scored 16 in the first quarter Friday, and finished 17 of 28 from the floor. He also had 10 rebounds.
WATCH | Siakam matches career high in win over Pelicans:
Siakam attempted a career-high 10 3-pointers, making five. The confident deep shooting is just another sign of his continued growth.
"He's got the green light to make any move he wants at this point," Raptors coach Nick Nurse said. "No, I'm serious man. We're just trying to get him to see how far he can go here. Drive it, post it, shoot the three, drive it in transition, play pick and roll; we want him to get as many reps as he can."
The 6-foot-9 Siakam briefly ran the Toronto offence to start the fourth quarter with Lowry out and Fred VanVleet resting. Siakam said a rare opportunity to play point guard was an opportunity to work on his ball-handling and overall game.
"I'm just trying to continue to improve, continue to get better and just do what I do— just be myself," he said.
45-point second quarter
Toronto used a 45-point second quarter to take control of the game and improved to 6-2. The Pelicans slipped to 1-7.
Brandon Ingram led the Pelicans with 27 points. He made just 10 of 25 field goals. Jrue Holiday added 16 points, six rebounds and six assists for New Orleans.
The Pelicans kept pace early and the first quarter ended in a 30-30 tie. But the Raptors scored the first 15 points of the second quarter. Toronto parlayed the hot start into a 45-point quarter and a 75-53 halftime lead.
In the lopsided first half, the Raptors made 13 of 23 3-pointers (57 and outscored the Pelicans 31-9 on fast-break points. In the game, Toronto shot better from behind the arc (19 of 43, 44.2 than on two pointers (22 of 50, 44%).
Even with Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard leaving in free agency, the Raptors have so far looked like a legitimate contender in the Eastern Conference, and Siakam's continued emergence is a key reason for Toronto's impressive start.
"He's evolving into a superstar," Lowry said of Siakam.