TORONTO -- The bright lights of the NBA Finals lit up the city of Toronto Thursday evening. In front of an incredible packed house at Scotiabank Arena for Game 1 between the Warriors and Raptors, it wasn’t the usual suspects that stole center stage.
Sure, Stephen Curry posted a game-high 34 points and Draymond Green dropped in a triple-double. Raptors star Kawhi Leonard hit the Warriors for 23 points and eight rebounds, but all three stars were overshadowed by a third-year forward looking to make his mark.
Pascal Siakam put on a show for the Raptors, punishing the Warriors for 32 points, eight rebounds and five assists in the win. His rebound and putback with just under a minute remaining sealed the win for the Raptors and gave them an early 1-0 lead in the series.
“Pascal had a big offensive night,” Raptors head coach Nick Nurse said. “He got to his spots and got on balance and was patient, and when he needed to go quick and get around him, he did as well.”
Siakam’s length caused problems for the Warriors all night, but so did his speed. The 6-foot-9 power forward beat the Warriors' bigs down the court on multiple occasions, finishing on the break as a rim runner.
“It’s amazing and it just proves that if you put the work in, man, and it’s something that it’s so cliché most of the time, but that’s the story of my life, just going out there every single night and, working hard to get to this level and knowing that I have so much room to improve and grow,” Siakam said following Toronto’s 118-109 victory.
On the evening, the 26-year-old out of Cameroon shot 14 of 17 from the field, including two makes from behind the arc. More impressively, he accomplished the feat predominantly against one of the game’s elite defenders in Draymond Green.
“I think he played an amazing game obviously, but he got out in transition and out transition 'D' was horrible, and I let him get in a rhythm,” Green said.
“So I got to do a better job of taking his rhythm away, and I will, but he had a great game,” Green added. “But that’s on me.”
Green stepped up to take the blame, but defending at the NBA level requires teamwork, especially in transition.
“Pascal had an amazing game,” Curry said. “Pretty much found a bucket wherever he was at, and we got to -- all five guys got to do a better job of just being physical, being alert, and we’ll be alright.”
Golden State will make adjustments between now and Game 2 on Sunday, but Siakam presents a huge problem for the Warriors and plenty of other NBA teams.
He is one of the feel-good stories of the season and is a finalist for the NBA’s Most Improved Player Award after finishing the season with career-highs across the board.
“He doesn’t need no pep talks,” Leonard said of his young big. “He’s going out there doing it. He’s not a guy that’s shying away.”
Leonard is on the top of the scouting report when facing Toronto, but Siakam is not far behind. If the Warriors can’t figure out to slow the Raptors second-leading scorer, they could be in for a long series.