Siakam: Toronto Raptors down but not out

TORONTO – Pascal Siakam can’t deny that the Raptors have taken some hard knocks during slump that has seen Toronto lose six of their past seven games.

But Siakam says there’s a lot more fight left in him and his teammates.

“You feel like you’re getting knocked down every time you go out there,” said Siakam after the Raptors practised at the OVO Atheltic Centre on Tuesday. “It feels like a boxing match where you get knocked down and everything.

“You can’t see nothing. You’re looking for your mouthpiece, trying to find anything on the floor, and the ref is counting, blood coming out of your mouth.”

Despite losing four in a row, Toronto (9-14) is still just half a game back of the Atlanta Hawks (9-13) for 10th place in the NBA’s Eastern Conference. The Raptors host Atlanta in back-to-back games on Wednesday and Friday, meaning Toronto could climb back into the conference’s lowest post-season berth with more than two-thirds of the season left. The Hawks have also dropped four straight.

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“It’s going to be hard. We just have to be able to overcome it,” said Siakam. “We can talk about Xs and Os and this and that but we’ve just got to be able to buckle up and go out there and do it.

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“We have no choice. This is what it is and we have to figure it out.”

The Raptors scored an impressive 130 points on Monday night, tied for third-most on the season, but it wasn’t enough as they still lost to the host New York Knicks 136-130. Siakam, who had 20 points, four rebounds, four assists and four steals in the loss but was 3-for-7 from the free-throw line, said Toronto needs to be more efficient.

“Whatever the good stretches we have, we have to find a way to double it,” he said. “If it was 50 or 60 per cent of the time we did the right thing, we’ve got to do it 80 per cent of the time.

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“You’ve got to stay positive and continue to fight, continue to find different ways to improve.”

First-year head coach Darko Rajakovic enumerated five things the Raptors need to do to start winning: transition defence; guarding the ball better; trusting defensive shifts and closing out to the three-point line; improved pick-and-roll coverage; and preventing opponents from second-chance points.

“I thought that ball movement was good, I thought that the offence was not an issue,” said Rajakovic of the loss in New York. “It was things that are in our control, so we had a really good meeting this morning and really good film session focusing on basic stuff that we are not taking control of right now and that are very, very controllable.”

Rajakovic said his staff considered tinkering with Toronto’s starting lineup after sticking with the same five players, barring injury, for the first 23 games of the season. But point guard Dennis Schroder, who is one of Rajakovic’s starting five, said he thinks that changing the lineup isn’t what the Raptors need.

“When we lost games earlier in the season, people said it’s the bench. Now they’re saying it’s the starters,” said Schroder. “At the end of the day, we’re 12 guys and everybody who hits the floor’s just got to be ready. It’s just not one guy.”

Rajakovic said that forwards Otto Porter Jr. and Chris Boucher were both day-to-day. Porter left Friday’s 119-116 loss in Charlotte with a foot contusion. He did not participate in live drills on Tuesday but did do some shooting.

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Boucher left Monday’s loss in New York with a left thigh contusion and did not practice Tuesday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 12, 2023.

&copy 2023 The Canadian Press

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