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Siakam helps Pacers rally past Raptors in Toronto return


TORONTO — Pascal Siakam has nothing but love and respect for the people of Toronto and the Raptors players and staff who he used to work with.

But there was no way he was leaving Toronto without a win.

Siakam had 23 points to lead his Indiana Pacers past the Raptors 127-125 on Wednesday in his first game against his former team since being traded away last month. The 29-year-old Siakam was celebrated all day but, in the back of his head, he knew what he had to do.

"You don't want to come in and lose and it was a thing on my mind," said Siakam with a grin. "When everyone was telling me like, 'Oh, man, I'm so happy to see you' in my head I’m just like 'I've got to get a win. I can't lose this game.'"

Siakam also had seven assists and five rebounds for Indiana (31-25). He was traded from the Raptors on Jan. 17 in a blockbuster deal that effectively ended Toronto's 2019 championship era.

Tyrese Haliburton and Isaiah Jackson each had a double-double for the Pacers. Haliburton scored 21 points and added 12 assists, with Jackson adding 15 points with 11 boards. Andrew Nembhard of Aurora, Ont., had 14 points, five assists and three rebounds.

Siakam said Haliburton has really impressed him in his first 14 games with Indiana.

"I've been around the league a while and he's one of those guys that’s all about getting the win," he said. "That's rare and special in a young player."

Scottie Barnes had a double-double with 29 points and 12 rebounds for Toronto (19-36). RJ Barrett of Mississauga, Ont., had 23 points and nine boards.

Barnes, who had become the face of the Raptors and the focal point of the team's offence since Siakam's departure, said it was "kind of weird" to play against his friend and former teammate.

"It was emotional but we’re both really good competitors and we both want to win and we want to take it to the floor every time we step on the floor," said Barnes. "Very competitive today. It felt amazing though.

"They were competitive and we were really competitive. Both teams just really wanted to win."

Every time Siakam appeared on Scotiabank Arena's video monitors during the singing of the national anthems the sold-out crowd of 19,800 cheered. He was also the last player announced during the Pacers' team introductions, with a lengthy video tribute played to officially welcome him to the court.

Siakam was standing near centre court when the lights came back on, putting his hand to his heart to thank the fans.

Siakam went 0 for 4 on field-goal attempts to start the game, so Pacers head coach Rick Carlisle sat him after five minutes of playing. After a two-minute spell on the bench, Siakam returned with his jump shot cutting the Raptors' lead to 35-31 after a quarter.

"Thanks for reminding me, bro," said Siakam, when asked about his slow start. "It is hard to just go into the game after all that. There are a lot of emotions.

"You want to say that you're going to be OK and, like, 'I'm trying to focus. I have all these little things. I'm trying to just be locked in.' But it is hard. It's tough. This is a place that means a lot to me."

The two teams were neck-and-neck through the game, with Toronto holding a 103-101 lead after three quarters.

That deadlock held until Haliburton hit a 27-foot three-pointer on a Siakam assist for a three-point lead with 3:59 to go. Although Immanuel Quickley replied with a jump shot for Toronto, Siakam came right back with a 12-foot shot and then sank one of his two free throws to make it 124-121.

Both teams struggled to find their rhythm after that, killing 90 seconds of the clock without scoring with 1:12 left to play.

Barnes hit a 22-foot pull-up jumper with one minute left, flexing as he stomped back to centre as fans roared. He then blocked Jackson's attempt at a dunk, but missed his shot on the ensuing possession.

Siakam sank an 11-foot floater with 25.1 seconds to go, restoring Indiana's three-point lead.

Poeltl was fouled on the next Raptors possession and made both of his free throws to cut the Pacers' lead to one. Jackson was quickly fouled as Indiana got the ball over half but made only one free throw with 9.6 seconds left.

Toronto called a timeout to make the most of the final possession of the game but Barrett missed his shot in the dying seconds of the game to seal Indiana's win.

BARNES ALL-STAR — Barnes was presented with an all-star ball by Raptors general manager Bobby Webster ahead of tipoff. Barnes will make his first-ever all-star appearance this week in Indiana.

UP NEXT — The Raptors have an eight-day break because of the NBA All-Star Game before hosting the Brooklyn Nets on Feb. 22.

Indiana will host the Detroit Pistons on Feb. 22.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 14, 2024.