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Corinne: Pascal Siakam is the only player protecting the Raptors from true despair

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vultures trading machine is about wild birds, and deserve it. The league’s front offices plan months and years in advance to be able to acquire players of the caliber of some of the best Raptors, and the team has earned its part in the unwanted spotlight with its poor play. In a way, it’s a compliment: If a team doesn’t have players worth acquiring, trade chatter will be much quieter.

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During Sunday’s loss to the WarriorsThe Ringer’s basketball writer Kevin O’Connor tweeted that the Raptors were in the “blow it off” zone. Now, O’Connor’s become an expert connoisseur (not a critic; he likes to identify teams that might be better off dissolving than staying their current course), so it should be read in this context. The Raptors aren’t quite there yet, but in a league where you want to avoid being caught in the middle, the speculation is understandable — especially in a draft year with once-in-a-generation prospect Victor Wimpanyama. (After him, the class is thought to be good).

Before we get too far into this conversation, which hasn’t been dampened by Philadelphia’s 104-101 overtime loss, the sixth on a Raptors trot, we need to define a few terms. When people talk about “blowing it up,” they mean that the team must abandon its current plan for success. When people talk about “tanks”, whether it is a long-term or short-term strategy, such as John Hollinger did last week, it involves machinations and, say, strategic decisions about player availability that make losing more likely. Blowing them up can create reservoirs, but not all blasting is the same as blowing them up. I got you? Hassan.

For Raptors purposes, this is how you’ll tell the difference. If they trade Pascal I’m sorryThey’ll blow it up. Anything shyer than this shy away from this definition, too.

trade Fred VanVleet, a first-time All-Star last year who’s been shooting poorly this season and will likely make it to free agency at 29 in the summer? Don’t blow it up. trade and anunobe, a formidable defensive player with a solid utility as a third-rate scorer, to add some draft picks and/or increase depth? Don’t blow it up. Siakam traded twice everything-NBA A player who plays his best basketball ever? Yes, that qualifies. Without it, the Raptors premise evaporates.

For the struggling Raptors, Siakam is basically the whole damn thing, the last person to separate them from the competition at large and a train wreck. His offensive production dipped a bit prior to his adductor injury, but he’s been doing multiple things lately – holding on Kevin Durant To 15 attempted shootings, and in particular – to distinguish himself.

Monday, it was great. Point. He had 38 points, 15 rebounds and six assists, his first two statistics being season-highs. He also produced one of the greatest single sequences in Birds of Prey history. With the Raptors down by two points at the end of regulation, he skated for rebound in traffic, taking the ball down to the ground, he slipped by PJ Tucker and hit the high ball off the cup at an awkward angle. The 76ers still had some time on the clock, and Siakam turned to Joel Embiid and physically guarded him without fouling, Force to miss.

Siakam did it all, and that was it countless Missing 3 indicators, many of VanVleet’s clean looks, which kept the Raptors from breaking that slack. On successive possessions late in the third quarter, Siakam pushed the ball up and down the ball, only to catch it and recover it. dig 3. Philadelphia took the ball down the field, and Siakam received an offensive foul that was called power to bypass the screen. He was relieved shortly after, only to be called back on last possession of the quarter, recording his fifth pulled 3 of the year to tie the score. The Sixers dutifully fielded a double team in Siakam to start the fourth quarter when VanVleet, Anunoby, and Scottie Barnes were resting. Siacam modification. He played all but 84 seconds into the second period and overtime.

Early in the game, Siakam pushed the Raptors to go with two baskets by going straight for Embiid, the first a Brand spin movement. In the NBA Finals, Embiid’s defense stunned Siakam. Almost four years later, he knew how to face it. When Embiid wasn’t guarding it was Tucker, one of the most physically fit outside perimeter defenders in the league. Siakam and Tucker had trash talk at a game earlier in the year and exchanged technical data on Monday. Siakam smiled broadly as he was called for an offensive foul, perhaps one possession after he had already deserved it. Siakam never stopped sizing the defense right, though, making the passes that needed to be made to get some necessary movement on the ball, with one exception.

It is not specified whether birds of prey should trade siacam. It depends on how and when they can dig themselves out of this hole. They can’t stop digging. It depends on the offers on the table. It depends on the additional moves that may be available. If the loss to the Birds of Prey continues, there will be plenty of time to discuss it.

“At the end of the day, I don’t care about schemes or this or that,” said a frustrated Siakam. Sunday night. “We just have to win. That’s the only thing. I don’t know the difference compared to the (previous) sets. I just know this set now, we’re struggling. It’s really bad. We have to get out of it.”

Just know that without Siacam, they wouldn’t have a chance to do so. Siakam is the kind of player you only move on when you’re sure every possible path takes you anywhere worth going.

Notes

• Ladies and gentlemen, I’d like to show you Barnes putting up a screen and then on Catching a pass on a roll. more please. Like, five times more in the game.

• Given the Raptors’ offensive shortcomings and lack of confidence, Nick Nurse has to swing the minutes at Seacam and Vanfleet. One of them must be on the field at all times. Both sat for more than three minutes to start the second quarter, a period in which they stretched 76ers Outscored Toronto 17-5. Managing minutes is tough but that’s not how a nurse can get it done now.

• Monday was one of the best defensive efforts for the Raptors in a long time. However, Embiid doubling in the middle of the floor, late in regulation, leading by four points, seemed like an odd pick to me. Fanfleet leaves De Anthony Melton in the corner l James Harden Above the break was even worse. Chris Boucher‘s Weak closing effort was the capper.

• I thought Khem Birch It starts Monday for the Raptors. Instead, Nurse opted to remain small in the starting lineup, with Anunoby slipping in Christian ClockHis place when returning from a thigh injury and keeping it Juancho Hernangomez in the opening group. I expected that Nurse would want someone more physical to handle Embiid at the start, and avoid missteps with some of the central players, but that’s not what Nurse chose. Birch started the second half, as Young and Boucher combined to finish the game.

Birch’s offensive shortcomings make him difficult to lean on, but he made a clear difference against Embiid. Unlike Barnes at the start of the game, Birch fought for space with the ability to win (or at least, lose more slowly). Birch encouraged some Embarrassing shots From an MVP candidate, a reminder of his usefulness.

• Anunobi returned from a four-match absence due to a thigh injury. During that time, he also rested his sore hand. It wasn’t good to start. The low point: trying to throw Alley driveway to Barnes on two on one with Montreal Harrell Edge defense. Either push it into the bucket and make Harrell make a foul or keep it simple with the pass. (The Raptors’ transmission efficiency has taken a hit since the beginning of the year.)

Anunobi found more of his rhythm as the game progressed and finished with 13 points and some solid defense late in the game.

(Photo: Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

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