Pascal Siakam wasted little time in showing what the Toronto Raptors had been missing.
The performance earned high praise from teammate Scottie Barnes.
“Great to have Pascal back out there. You see him doing amazing things, score the ball at a higher level, being efficient, rebounding, pushing the ball, the things that he brings to the game, it’s amazing to see,” Barnes marvelled.
“Watching Pascal play is like: wow, damn. Every move he makes, the step-backs, the spin moves, double spin moves, you know it’s coming but still, bang. It’s great to have him back out there on the floor.”
WATCH | Siakam strong in victorious return:
O.G. Anunoby had 20 points, while Gary Trent Jr. finished with 14. Fred VanVleet scored 13, while Barnes had 11, and Thaddeus Young chipped in with 10 for Toronto (11-9).
Evan Mobley had 18 points and 15 rebounds to top Cleveland (13-8), while Darius Garland added 18 points.
‘Looked really like he hadn’t missed a beat’
Siakam’s injury was a big blow after his sizzling start to the season. He was averaging 24.8 points, 9.3 rebounds and 7.7 assists before he slipped on the court in Dallas on Nov. 4 and strained an adductor (groin) muscle. The Raptors went 5-5 in his absence.
The 28-year-old showed little signs of rust in his return, recording eight points and four rebounds in his first seven-and-a-half-minute shift before taking a breather.
Siakam said he felt he did “OK.”
“To play at that speed, the game is different,” he said. “I’ve been working, but game speed is different… to be able to sustain it for a long time. I got to continue to get better, but once I get my legs under me I can kind of provide a little bit more.”
The game was tightly fought through the first half, with neither team leading by double digits. The Raptors’ 8-0 run midway through the third quarter put them up by 16 points, and Chris Boucher’s free throw made it an 18-point difference late in the frame. Toronto led 80-67 to start the fourth.
VanVleet, Neto exchange
Trent Jr., who’s been mired in a shooting slump, hit a three-pointer with 5:55 to play to stretch the Raptors’ lead to 20 points. With 3:11 to play, Raul Neto was pestering VanVleet before the Raptors guard pushed off the Cavs player — he admitted to the push-off post-game — before calmly sinking a three-pointer.
VanVleet nattered at Neto on the way back up the court. Asked if there were any words he could repeat, VanVleet laughed and said “Not many, not many.”
“I like Neto man, he’s a heck of a competitor. I really respect his game,” VanVleet added. “I won’t share what I said, but I was probably more frustrated at the ref than I was him, so I’m glad they let me push him off, I got an extra three out of that couple minutes coach threw me back in so I’ll take it.”
The Raptors shot 44 per cent on the night, and 42.9 per cent from three-point range. The Cavs were a horrible 18.4 per cent from behind the arc.
Anunoby’s three-pointer with 3:17 left in the first quarter put the Raptors up by seven, but they led just 26-24 to start the second.
The Raptors finally put some distance on Cleveland in the second quarter, taking a nine-point lead with a 12-3 run. Toronto took a 52-43 advantage into the halftime break.