Siakam on Raptors’ season: ‘A lot of ups and downs’
A disappointing season for the Toronto Raptors came to an end Wednesday night as the Chicago Bulls erased a 19-point deficit in the do-or-die play-in matchup to eliminate the Raps in front of their home fans.
Toronto went 18-of-36 from the free throw line, their second-highest number of missed free throws in a game in franchise history, including two misses from Pascal Siakam that could have tied the game with 12 seconds to go.
“That’s a lot of misses. We left a lot of points on the board there, for sure… If you ever miss more than 10 in a game it’s hard to win,” head coach Nick Nurse said.
Siakam, who led the Raptors with 32 points, summed up the season after the loss.
"We've definitely shown some good stretches but also some stretches where we weren’t good at all," he said. "I think that we’re going to have to be better, when you look at the season, a lot of ups and downs.
"We didn’t have our best fourth quarter in terms of playing the way that we should play and we couldn’t get stops, they kept scoring."
Guard Fred VanVleet said it would take some time for him to process the loss.
"Any way you slice it, a loss in the play-in is going to be frustrating," he said. "Whether you win or you lose, especially if you lose, you find whatever reason it was that you lost and try to make sense of it."
He scored 26 points and added a team-high 12 rebounds in the 109-105 defeat.
Zach LaVine led the charge for Chicago with a game-high 39 and former Raptor DeMar DeRozan chipped in with 23 as the Bulls now face the Miami Heat with a spot in the first round of the playoffs on the line.
"It's family so it's good to see him. Not very happy with him right now, but let him and Kyle [Lowry] go fight it out,” VanVleet said of DeRozan, who remains the Raptors’ franchise leader in points and games played. This marks the second time in the past three seasons the Raptors have missed the playoffs. After struggling to a 27-45 record during 2020-21 that saw them play out of Tampa due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, the Raps rebounded with a 48-win campaign last year that set expectations high for 2023-23.
But the Raptors had an up-and-down 41-41 season, finishing last in the Atlantic Division for just the second time in the last 10 years.
“We were the ninth seed, we’re .500, so what does that tell you? Win one, lose one, win two, lose two,” VanVleet said. “That’s just the way it goes and that's just kind of the way it went.”