TORONTO — It’s hard to miss Toronto Raptors forward Pascal Siakam on the court. Known for wearing a rainbow of colors on his game-day shoes, he opted for a turquoise pair Wednesday night that could be seen from the cheap seats of Scotiabank Arena. Still, the Washington Wizards could not track him.
They lost the 6-foot-9 forward in transition, they lost him at the three-point arc, and they lost him under the basket in a 129-120 Raptors win that had home fans chanting “M-V-P” as he shot a pair of free throws in the final minute.
By that point, after Siakam posted a career-high 44 points to go with 10 rebounds, it would have been difficult for the Wizards to disagree. Siakam made 15 of 25 shots, the most attempts of any player on the floor, and made four of his five three-point attempts.
“He pretty much got whatever he wanted,” Wizards guard Bradley Beal said. “He was making some threes early, which is not really his game, but he got to the basket a lot. Got to the free throw line. He was just being aggressive. Made a lot of shots.”
On Sunday, Beal will play in his second straight All-Star Game, and Coach Scott Brooks can envision Siakam earning the same honor next year.
“He keeps playing like this, he’s a 2020 all-star,” Brooks said.
Although Beal (28 points), Jeff Green (23) and Jabari Parker (22) formed a strong offensive trio, Washington (24-34) will enter the all-star break with regrets after another shaky defensive performance. Toronto’s 16 three-pointers powered its comeback from a 12-point deficit. Besides Siakam, OG Anunoby (career-high 22 points) and Kyle Lowry each made four three-pointers.
One month earlier, the teams met in Washington for a wild and entertaining matchup that saw Beal score 43 points for his second career triple-double. Kawhi Leonard shined as well in that game, scoring 41 in Toronto’s 140-138 double-overtime win.
Much has changed in the past 30 days. The NBA trade deadline and buyout market rearranged both rosters. Leonard sat out Wednesday’s game with left knee soreness, and five players who were on different teams during that January meeting appeared on the court for early rotation minutes.
“It’s like you kind of start watching tape from the last game, and you’re like: ‘I watched enough of this. It’s a whole new team. We’ve got a whole new team,’ ” Raptors Coach Nick Nurse said before the game. “Let’s get out there and see what happens.”
The Raptors (43-16) played without Leonard and for much of the game used an eight-man rotation, including new arrival Jeremy Lin, who had a light walk-through with his new teammates. But the drama from a month ago lived on. Only this time, Siakam was the breakout star.
The Wizards took control early by surviving a slog of a second quarter. Although every NBA quarter starts with 12 minutes on the clock, this one dragged on in real time for nearly a half-hour.
There were two long reviews — Lowry showed his discontent to officials after his incidental slap across Thomas Bryant’s face was upgraded to a flagrant-one foul — and 13 combined personal fouls. Nurse wasn’t as demonstrative as Lowry but his protest minutes later led to a technical foul.
Even with the whistle disruptions and extended pauses, the Wizards never lost their rhythm. Washington made 10 of 13 free throws in the quarter and hit five three-pointers — after starting the game 1 for 7 from beyond the arc. In the closing seconds of the half, Trevor Ariza sprinted down court and raised his hand from deep in the perimeter. He had time to gather the pass, look down on the other end to check the clock and still fire in the buzzer-beating three over Lin.
Beal picked up where the team left off by sinking another three-pointer to start the third quarter. When Bryant finished a transition dunk at the 8:48 mark of the third quarter, the Wizards held their largest lead at 80-68.
The Raptors answered with 15 straight points and closed the quarter on a 33-13 run. Siakam, who played the frame in dominating fashion, scored 19 points.
“Breakdowns and not getting back in transition,” Beal said, explaining how the third quarter went awry. “They got a lot of easy ones: transition threes, layups all off our misses. Bad shots we were taking. Third quarter is where we lost the game, for sure.”
Although the fourth quarter appeared to be setting up for another close ending after Washington pulled within two points, a flurry from Siakam (six points on three possessions) ended the rally.