Pascal Siakam adds extra spice to the mix when favourable matchups are presented

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No one has ever claimed that Pascal Siakam isn’t good and nor has anyone said that he can’t be the second banana on a championship-worthy team.

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Having said all this, the chances of Spicy P getting extended by the Raptors doesn’t appear to be good.

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If there’s one thing in the cut-throat world of pro basketball that has been and continues to be made abundantly clear is that anything is possible and the window to keep Siakam on board beyond this season will always remain open until it’s officially closed.

For now, Siakam continues to flourish in favourable matchups, the latest example provided in Wednesday night’s glorified pickup game in Indianapolis where the hometown Pacers once again demonstrated their abysmal defence.

Not only did the Raptors keep pace, but they also outpaced the Pacers in a track meet that wouldn’t be decided until the very last shot when Buddy Hield’s deep three-pointer from the top of the circle failed to drop at the buzzer in a 132-131 Toronto win.

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When OG Anunoby buried an open three from the corner baseline, it came off a draw and kick from Siakam in a two-point game when Indy had no business leaving Anunoby so wide open knowing the only way it would give up the lead was to allow a three-point shot.

The Pacers never boxed out when Scottie Barnes flushed home an emphatic put-back dunk, one of many of the game’s smaller points that often get lost when teams can’t defend.

No one should also lose sight of Gary Trent Jr.’s two missed free throws late in the game.

And nor should Gradey Dick’s first DNP-CD designation be forgotten in the win.

A kid such as Dick needs minutes in a season when wins and losses will not ultimately define this group or the acumen of rookie head coach Darko Rajakovic.

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When a play gets executed following a timeout that leads to a basket, at worse a clean look, it’s always a sign of coaching competence.

At the same time, the rookie Rajakovic should not have left Siakam in the game last Friday night when Boston came to town after Siakam picked up two fouls.

Regardless, Siakam shines when the pace of play increases and when matchups cry out for more touches.

Keep in mind that Siakam has reached the 30-point plateau three times this season, each resulting in Raptors wins, for what it’s worth.

The first arrived at home in a win over Washington when Siakam poured in 31 points on 15-of-25 shooting.

His second came in Big D when Siakam lit up the Mavs by going off for 39 points on 15-of-23 shooting.

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Then came Wednesday’s outburst when Siakam shot 13-of-24 from the field en route to a 36-point game.

In games against the Wizards, Mavericks and Pacers, Siakam reached double figures in rebounding in each outing, which also happen to represent the three games Siakam has hauled down at least 10 boards this season.

When Siakam drove the lane Wednesday night, the Pacers had no answer and allowed Siakam to make 11 trips to the charity stripe where he converted nine times.

It’s no wonder why the Pacers were among the rumoured teams this past off-season when Siakam’s name was being bandied about in trade speculation.

“He’s tough for us to guard,” said Pacers star guard Tyrese Haliburton following Indy’s loss. “Big wings have been a struggle for us all year. Eleven free throws, he’s getting to the free throw line a lot.”

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Teams, for that matter, have been scoring a lot when playing the Pacers, who have surrendered 125 points in six successive games following their defensive debacle against the Raptors.

“Pascal was amazing,” said Rajakovic following the win. “He was so aggressive. He scored points in the paint and was versatile, driving to the rim.”

The one knock against Siakam remains his inability to knock down shots from beyond the arc.

Entering Friday night’s tip against visiting Chicago, Siakam has made three three-pointers on 29 attempts in his past 10 games.

During that stretch, he went five games in succession without making a three-point shot.

Siakam is good, but it remains to be seen if he’s a good fit, especially financially, with the Raptors beyond this season.

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Chicago comes to town for the first time since last year’s play-in game when the Bulls overcame a big deficit to advance in a matchup against Miami.

Zach LaVine, who missed Wednesday’s loss to the host OKC Thunder because of a sore right foot, is very much in the news as his name is front and centre in trade gossip.

For reasons that defy all logic, the Raptors have been linked to LaVine, who signed a five-year deal last July worth a total of $215 million.

Even one-time Raptors franchise player DeMar DeRozan, who is on an expiring contract, has been connected to Toronto for reasons that also defy credulity.

Either way, the Bulls are not good and change is definitely afoot.

The franchise posted a 40-42 record last season to miss the post-season for the fifth time in six years.

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The Bulls arrive in Toronto with one win in their past six games

“It’s a struggle when you lose, but I see them fighting and trying,” said Bulls coach Billy Donovan following his team’s 116-102 loss to the Thunder.

“We just haven’t been consistent enough and we haven’t been consistent in shooting the basketball. I felt our guys were really trying. We just have these stretches where we dig ourselves somewhat of a hole. We just have to keep fighting through and being more consistent.”

DeRozan was held to one basket in the opening half against the Thunder, but he would respond by netting a team-high 25 points in the loss.

When the Bulls played host to the Raptors on Oct. 27, they fought back from a huge hole to prevail in overtime.

The dagger in extra time was delivered by Alex Caruso with 2.3 ticks remaining.

For the record, Caruso’s name is also prominent in trade talk with no ties to the Raptors.

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