DALLAS — While this past offseason all but signified the transition into a new era for the Toronto Raptors — and away from the past one that earned them an NBA championship — some of the vestiges of those halcyon days are still around to make an impact. One of those players, Pascal Siakam, looked to also be in a transition during the first few games of this season, seeing another young wing player turn into the team’s go-to guy, but he reverted back to form on Wednesday night in a reminder that his championship form has not left him yet.
Siakam scored a season-high 31 points, while another key member of the 2019 championship team, OG Anunoby, also dropped a season-best 26 points as the Raptors defeated the red-hot Dallas Mavericks 127-116 inside American Airlines Center. Toronto has won two straight, after a come-from-behind win in San Antonio on Sunday when it came back from a 22-point deficit, and three of its last four games.
It has already been five seasons since the franchise won the NBA title in 2019, led by Kawhi Leonard, and most of the major players from that team have moved on from The Six, with head coach Nick Nurse and point guard Fred Van Vleet departing this offseason. The start of this season has seen the emergence of 2021 first-round draft pick Scottie Barnes, who has led the team in scoring and rebounding as he plays a point forward role for the team, a position that Siakam had assumed at times on his way to becoming a two-time NBA All-Star. Siakam has struggled to begin the new season, scoring 20-plus points in just two of the seven games coming into tonight, and was coming off a 2-for-12 shooting performance against the Spurs.
Tonight was a different story, as Siakam not only made 60 percent of his shots from the field tonight (15-for-25), he also paced the team with 12 rebounds and had five assists.
“Yessir, he’s been putting a lot of work in. I’ve seen him every single day; the way he practices and how he prepares himself. He did a really good job,” Raptors first-year head coach Darko Rajakovic said. “He gave us a really amazing spark in the first half and just continued down the stretch making the right plays. He was all over. He was rebounding. He was making assists. He was scoring. He did a great job.”
Siakam and Anunoby combined for all 11 points in an 11-0 run that broke a 73-all tie in the third quarter. After trailing by six at the end of the first quarter, the Raptors scored 35 points in the second and 37 in the third to take control.
The Raptors finished with 72 points in the paint in their way to stopping Dallas’ two game winning streak. The Mavericks were playing without their first-round selection from this year, center Dereck Lively II, who has already established himself as a defensive presence the Mavericks sorely missed last season when it came up short in their pursuit of a playoff spot.
“We missed him a lot. There was no one in the paint tonight, and that just shows how important he is to our team,” Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd said about Lively’s absence. “But it’s the next-man-up mentality, and we just didn’t do a good job on the perimeter or protecting the paint and rim.”
*Editor’s note: Above the byline is the photo gallery from Wednesday evening’s game, with all photos taken by Dallas-area photographer Ross James. After clicking on the first photo to enlarge the picture, make sure to press the left and right arrow buttons to scroll through the rest of the pictures. There are 27 pictures in total.