RAPTORS BLOG: Depth will be tested if superstar Siakam misses next set

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The good news is that star guard Fred VanVleet should be back soon to take up much of the offensive play. And that there are so many great men capable of contributing to it.

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After wiping the floor with two vastly outclassed opponents, the Raptors faced a much tougher test Friday in Dallas. The visitors were on board, pulling off an inspired comeback even after losing top player Pascal Siakam to injury, but a horrific quarter-time sank them.

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The good work against NBA leader Luka Doncic for most of the night was undone by this Hall of Fame quarterback of remarkable Slovenian talent.

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But the story was Siakam’s wound. Obviously it’s never a good time to get injured, but it was cruel to see Siakam go down now, when he’s playing the best basketball of his career and looking like a MVP and an All-NBA First Team contender.

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My mind remembered about eight years ago when it happened. Coincidentally, team leader DeMar DeRozan battled the Dallas Mavericks with a sprained groin. It was one of the few times DeRozan was injured as a Raptor and he missed 21 games. Hopefully Siakam misses much less than that, regardless of his injury.

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These Raptors were deep, like this group, and relied on a diverse cast of characters (Terrence Ross, Lou Williams, Jonas Valanciunas, Grievis Vasquez, Patrick Patterson, Amir Johnson, and more Kyle Lowry, among others), to make up for absence of DeRozan.

The good news is that star guard Fred VanVleet should be back soon to take up much of the offensive play. And that there are so many great men capable of contributing to it.

But the Raptors will look very different if Siakam is out. They are about to play five times in seven nights. They will be smaller (VanVleet, Gary Trent Jr., Barnes, OG Anunoby being the likely starting lineup), less able to beat opponents one-on-one, less able to create open three-point shots, less capable to play their frantic defense, based on length and athleticism and they will have to figure out how to juggle all the big men on the bench.

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“We can’t replace Pascal with one person, it has to be collective,” Chris Boucher told reporters afterwards.

It won’t be easy. It’s not ideal. But that’s life in the NBA. The next man. And for a team built to win games with input from everyone, the Raptors are better positioned than most to hold the fort until their top dog is ready to return.

Some additional thoughts:

– This corner always strives to be honest, so, with that in mind, I’m not sure I’ve seen a worse triple-double performance than Barnes. It’s really impressive, he’s the youngest Raptor to ever manage one and he was playing star level in the fourth quarter, a key part of the impending comeback. But… his third and first quarters were well below his ability. He was mediocre at best in the first, downright mediocre in the third. It shows just how talented Barnes is that he could turn a great and good quarterback into a triple-double.

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– Otto Porter Jr. continues to look like a good candidate. The shooting talent is evident, but he’s a sneaky good defender who’s seen it all in his long NBA career. He is an absolutely ideal bench player and his minutes have already increased to 21 in Game 2. They will only increase if Siakam is out for a long time.

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– It was good to see Precious Achiuwa having a good game. Like last year, it got off to a disappointing start. Expectations were quite high for Achiuwa because he had a fantastic second half, but he hadn’t built on this run yet. Maybe it was the start of something.

– I don’t know what else to say about Anunoby. First Raptor with at least five interceptions in three straight games and the third player in the last 10 years to do so. More than impressive.

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THREE STARS:

1 Luka Doncic

2 OG Anunobia

3Pascal Siakam

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