Moore: Why Pascal Siakam’s Game 1 Looks Sustainable, What It Means for His Game 2 Prop

Moore: Why Pascal Siakam’s Game 1 Looks Sustainable, What It Means for His Game 2 Prop article feature image
Credit:

Gregory Shamus/Pool Photo via USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Draymond Green, Pascal Siakam

  • Pascal Siakam dominated Game 1 of the NBA Finals with a 32-point performance on 14-of-17 shooting.
  • Can the Toronto Raptors forward keep it up in Game 2 against the Golden State Warriors?
  • Matt Moore analyzes Siakam's sustainability and scoring prop for Sunday night.

Forgive the horribly dated reference, I’m washed. It holds, though, so bear with me.

This is basically what happened when Draymond Green faced Pascal Siakam in Thursday night’s Game 1 of the NBA Finals. Draymond is Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Green has fundamentally altered NBA history. David Lee’s injury in the 2013 playoffs against the Denver Nuggets opened the door for Green to usurp his place and unlock a smallball transformation that ended the phrase “tweener” forever.

Being a forward who’s neither big enough to play center nor perimeter-oriented enough to play wing used to be damning, now it’s a prerequisite for viability in the NBA playoffs.

Now, however, Green is four years older than he was when the Warriors’ title reign began. He’s a little slower. His shot, always inconsistent, appears to have left him for good; he’s shooting 20% in the playoffs from deep. And he’s facing the evolved version of his archetype in Pascal Siakam.

Siakam is 6-foot-9 to Green’s 6-foot-7. Siakam is a hyper-versatile forward who can attack in transition as the ball handler. He can hit the spot-up 3-pointer; he canned two 3s in Game 1. He’s a great rebounder and shot blocker. He does a little bit of everything, the way Green does, only Siakam can explode to the rim and is a better shooter.

And it’s a problem.

For years, Green has been the bedrock of the Warriors’ defensive temple. The Splash Brothers would always generate more headlines, but the core of this team has always been defense. Their 2015 squad was the first in NBA history to finish first in pace and defensive rating; it’s nearly impossible to play that fast and defend at that level, but the Warriors did in large part thanks to Green.

No matter what, the Warriors could throw Green on a player and guarantee a lockdown.

For perspective, via the NBA.com (admittedly wonky at times) matchup data, LeBron James scored only 31 points on Green over four games  in last season’s Finals. Siakam scored 16 in Game 1 vs. Green according to the NBA’s tracking data, though a manual log I conducted revealed it was actually 17 including a putback he scored off his own miss when Green tried to draw the charge.

The paradigm with Green’s slowly diminishing athleticism has been that if you manage to attack and bend Green back far enough to break, the whole Warriors’ defense collapses with it. That’s how important he is to their defense.

Siakam went right at him:

Early in the game, Siakam went for his patented spin move and Green anticipated it, drawing a charge. So later in the game, Siakam faked it moving to his left and instead spun back right:

Small cuts for a quick turning bucket? Nothing Green can do:

With Green on the floor in Game 1, the Warriors had a 115 defensive rating. It will not shock you in the slightest that in the Finals in the Steve Kerr era, the Warriors are 1-5 when Green has a defensive rating above 115.

Green took only two shots vs. Siakam, missing a mid-range jumper and having this happen to him:

This is evolution, and it’s a bad trend for the Warriors.

Siakam shot 14-of-17 from the field in Game 1, which was easy to kind of slough off. Outlier game. But much of what he did was replicable. He hit shots when he was faster than a slower defender, got out in transition and knocked down 3s when the defense sagged off to help on Kawhi Leonard.

This was not Fred VanVleet becoming a splash brother. This was sustainable.

Kerr himself likened Siakam to Green.

“Siakam reminds me a lot of Draymond the way he pushes the ball, the way he play-makes,” Kerr told reporters at the podium on Saturday.

If Siakam wins this matchup, even if he doesn’t average 30 points but only puts up 20 per game, the series tilts heavily in Toronto’s favor. It makes what has already been a susceptible Golden State defense that much more in a hole, which allows the Raptors to set their ferocious halfcourt defense, which allows them to get out in transition … it’s a vicious cycle for the opponent.

Siakam averaged 19.5 points in two regular-season matchups against the Warriors. His over/under for Game 2 is 19.5.

Green will bring counters. He’ll change where he attacks Siakam and how. He’ll alter how much he closes out. But make no mistake, Siakam is an evolutionary model. The T-800 (Arnold) got the better of the matchup in “T2: Judgment Day,” but this time, Siakam has at worst six more chances to put a hurt on Green again. Bet the over.

Beat Draymond, beat the Warriors. And Siakam is the weapon that can do that.