From the likes of Kevin Durant and Kristaps Porzingis, to even NBA G League Most Valuable Player and Defensive Player of the Year Chris Boucher, lengthy big men who boast a unique set of skills — from knocking down shots along the perimeter, to blocking shots or even putting the ball on the floor to create their own offense — have been associated with a “unicorn”-like moniker thanks to their versatility.
As if his breakthrough season wasn’t enough proof in itself, Pascal Siakam exploded onto the NBA Finals scene and put together the kind of performance that suggests he too deserves similar praise.
Helping the Raptors to a 118-109 Game 1 victory, the 25-year-old came up in the clutch with 32 points, even converting on 11 field goals in a row en route to connecting on 14 of 17 shots. He complemented such an offensive outburst with 8 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 blocks. As fate would have it, Siakam accomplished quite a number of rare feats in just one single game.
- Siakam is the 7th player in NBA Finals history to score 30+ points on 80% shooting or better. He’s joined elite company, included the likes of Michael Jordan, Shaquille O’Neal, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, James Worthy, Adrian Dantley, and Toni Kukoc.
- He scored 32 points and grabbed 8 rebounds in the win. Over the last 20 seasons (since 1999-2000), the only other player with that many points and rebounds in his NBA Finals debut is Kevin Durant (36 points, 8 rebounds in Game 1 of 2012 Finals vs. Miami).
- With 11 straight makes, Siakam sits at the top with the most consecutive field goals made in a Finals game, since start of 1999-2000 season. LeBron James, Tim Duncan, Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal (twice) all made 8 consecutive shots each previously.
- Siakam joined four other players as the only ones in NBA Finals history with 30+ points in a Finals Game 1 within their first 3 seasons in the league (since 1970) – Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (1971), Julius Erving (1977), Hakeem Olajuwon (1986), and Tim Duncan (1999).
As the Raptors chase their first ever NBA title, Siakam’s clutch performance helped them inch that much closer with one win down and three to go. It was certainly a championship-caliber performance, given the kind of company he now joins following Game 1. Many of the aforementioned players are multi-time champions and the young gun will be associated with them going forward.
While one glaring thing that still separates Siakam from the rest is that coveted trophy, he has hardware to write home about, too. He earned 2017 NBA G League MVP honors upon leading the affiliated Raptors 905 to a title of their own. Just two years later, that kind of success is already translating for Siakam, a seemingly proven winner trying to duplicate things at the next level. He’ll have the rest of the series to demonstrate whether or not his time donning a minor league uniform was merely a foreshadowing period, with a new championship now just three wins away.