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Red-hot Pascal Siakam leads Raptors against Cavaliers

Dec 19, 2022; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Toronto Raptors forward Pascal Siakam (43) dribbles the ball against the Philadelphia 76ers during the first quarter at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Coming off a career-best 52-point performance that helped end a six-game losing streak, Pascal Siakam will lead the visiting Toronto Raptors against the surging Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday night.

Siakam’s performance on Wednesday not only stopped Toronto’s slide, the 113-106 victory ended an eight-game winning streak by the New York Knicks.

The Cavaliers, meanwhile, had 36 points from Donovan Mitchell in defeating the visiting Milwaukee Bucks 114-106 Wednesday for their fifth consecutive victory.

Siakam has scored a total of 90 points over the first two games of Toronto’s three-game road trip that started Monday with an overtime loss to the Philadelphia 76ers.

Siakam made a layup and a free throw with 15.2 seconds remaining in New York to become the first player with a 50-point game at Madison Square Garden since James Harden had 61 for the Houston Rockets in 2019.

“It’s cool,” Siakam said. “Obviously, I’m not a super basketball historian. I didn’t start basketball till late and I’m learning about these things. But I know how special this building is. And I think that for me — the more important thing is that my team needed every bucket to get a win.”

“Special players rise to the occasion in the biggest moments,” said Raptors guard Fred VanVleet, who set the team record with a 54-point game in 2021. “A stage like Madison Square Garden where there’s been so many historic performances, he just (put) his name in the books as one of those guys. It’s just been a lot of fun to play alongside and watch him. When he’s got it going, he’s unbelievable.”

Siakam has scored 117 points over the past three games, shooting 54.2 percent (39-for-72) from the field. It is the most points by a player in franchise history over three games, passing DeMar DeRozan’s mark of 113 points, which he did twice.

The victory was the 200th for Nick Nurse as Raptors coach (200-140).

At Cleveland, the Bucks used a 9-0 run to cut the Cavaliers’ lead to five points with 2:21 to play in the fourth quarter. The Cavaliers held on for their first win of the season against the Bucks in three games.

“I think earlier on in the season, we probably would have given that game away,” said Darius Garland, who scored 23 points for Cleveland. “Last time we played them, I think we said that’s like our big brother type deal situation. Just have to keep jabbing, keep fighting as much as we can with this team. They have been there before and that’s where we’re trying to get to. As long as we keep chipping away and trying to get better every day, I think we will be there soon.”

The Cavaliers led by as many as 24 points against the Bucks.

“Just a group effort,” Mitchell said. “We’ve got some things we can clean up, and that’s natural, but when you go against a team that’s been together this long, after the two games that we had over there, to come here and protect home court, that’s big time.”

Cleveland has the best home record in the NBA this season (16-2). The Raptors are 4-12 on the road.

The Raptors lead their season series 2-0, with both games played in Toronto.

–Field Level Media

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