Title: Injuries, L.A. back-to-back will thrust Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby into Raptors’ spotlight
Date: November 9, 2019
Original Source: The Athletic
Synopsis: In my latest for The Athletic Toronto, I wrote about the big test and opportunity that an L.A. back-to-back provides for Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby.
A back-to-back in Los Angeles was always going to be a major test for young Raptors forwards Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby. Each is taking on a much larger role in 2019-20, Siakam tasked with a true superstar’s share of the offence and Anunoby deployed as the team’s unquestioned stopper. LeBron James, Anthony Davis and the Los Angeles Lakers leave no room for error. Simply knowing Kawhi Leonard well after a year is not enough.
That the Raptors could be without two of their top six for that back-to-back shines an even brighter light on the duo. After Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka left Friday’s game with a thumb fracture and severe ankle sprain, respectively, it fell on Siakam, Anunoby and Fred VanVleet to hold a 20-point lead against the New Orleans Pelicans. They managed, although the team’s questionable depth required a more difficult closeout than would have been ideal. Siakam matched his career high with 44 points and Anunoby came up one point shy of his with 21 while looking great on defence again. They are, by all accounts, ready for the bigger roles they were playing. They’re about to be asked to do even more if the initial expectations about absences for Lowry and Ibaka are accurate.
My plan this weekend was to examine how Siakam and Anunoby line up with James, Leonard and Davis. I thought it was going to be an interesting, informative look at where they are against the league’s best, two L.A. teams at the top of the Western Conference table with MVP-calibre starts from their stars. It’s no longer a fun B-plot. If Lowry and Ibaka are out, how Siakam and Anunoby rise to an even greater challenge becomes paramount to avoiding a sweep in the back-to-back, and possibly to avoiding a 1-4 or 2-3 record on the Raptors’ toughest road trip of the season.