Raptors coach Nick Nurse has had confidence in Pascal Siakam’s three-point shooting all season. Siakam proved Tuesday that that confidence in him was fully deserved.
The 24-year-old forward had 25 points — including going 4-of-5 from three-point range — to help Toronto down the Boston Celtics 118-95. “I don’t know if I saw it coming this far, this fast, [but] you remember me saying, ‘look, he’s a good shooter, he’s going to start making ’em,”‘ Nurse said. “I said that a lot early in the year.
“I know his mechanics are good, they’ve been good here now for 18 months. … It was just a matter of time, getting comfortable, seeing them go in in a game. So I’m not all that surprised.”
Siakam tied a career high with his four three-pointers and also added eight rebounds in 30 minutes. He has scored 20 or more points in four of Toronto’s nine games in February, averaging 21.3 points over that span. “For me it’s like I always said, it’s about confidence and going out there and trusting the work that I put in,” Siakam said. “I started shooting threes two or three years ago, I know it’s going to be hard, you know? I’m not at my best and I’m nowhere near close to that. “But I’m always going to continue to get better. And obviously trust my work. I always put the work in.”
Kawhi Leonard continued his dominance against Boston with 21 points and Serge Ibaka had 14 for the Raptors (45-17), who rebounded nicely after having their seven-game win streak snapped with a loss to the Orlando Magic on Sunday.
Norm Powell had 11 points off the bench and Kyle Lowry had 11 assists to go along with seven points. Siakam called Tuesday’s victory a “statement win,” on the heels of a rough loss. “I think that loss kinda woke us up a little bit and today we just came with the energy that we needed to handle a big game like that,” he said.
Marcus Morris led Boston (37-24) with 17 points while Toronto held Celtics star Kyrie Irving, usually a thorn in the Raptors side, to just seven. Jayson Tatum and Terry Rozier had 11 points apiece for Boston and Jaylen Brown had 10.
The Raptors, who have won eight straight home games against Boston, evened the season series at two games apiece. Toronto hasn’t dropped a season series to the Celtics since 2012-13. Leonard, back in the starting lineup after missing Sunday’s loss, came into the game having scored 95 points against Boston this season, more than any other player against the same team.
“We did a good job with everybody tonight,” Leonard said. “They missed shots too. They didn’t make too many threes. But we came out pretty aggressive and that led to us to early points in transition.”
The Raptors trailed 32-30 after the first quarter but stormed back for a 66-45 lead at the half. Toronto opened the second quarter on a 15-2 run, capitalizing on some Celtics turnovers, to go up 48-34. A pair of emphatic dunks from Leonard, with the latter coming after another Boston turnover, extended Toronto’s lead to 20 points at 59-39 three minutes before halftime. “I thought we started the game real physical defensively and it just didn’t quite manoeuvre our way,” Nurse said. “Down 32-30, felt like it should have been about 32-20 in our favour and in the second quarter all the stuff I thought was going happen started happening because of our energy and physicality.”
Boston began the third on a 7-2 run but Toronto replied with a 12-2 run of its own, punctuated by a Siakam steal and dunk, to give the Raptors an 88-64 edge. Siakam took the ball off a bad pass from Morris and went coast to coast before easily drilling the basket.
Toronto took a 95-68 lead into the fourth quarter. A 27-foot three-pointer from OG Anunoby gave the Raptors their largest lead of the night at 29 points, 100-71, a minute into the fourth, and a slam dunk from Canadian Chris Boucher put the Raptors up 118-92 with 44 seconds left.