Pascal Siakam had a breakout season, filling much of the void left by Kawhi Leonard and playing so well he was named Second Team All-NBA.
Then in the bubble, Siakam’s game took a step back. In the playoffs, he scored five fewer points per game and shot just 39%. He just wasn’t the same player, and he owned that saying he would take a lot of the blame for Toronto’s elimination.
Toronto coach Nick Nurse admitted his star struggled some while speaking to Jackie MacMullan of ESPN.
“He wasn’t right,” Nurse conceded. “I just think he lost his bounce. He didn’t look as athletic or as strong or as fast. He was in tip-top condition in March, but the lack of playing for three or four months hurt him. He couldn’t get it going, and he never did get back to where he was conditioning-wise.
“So, the layoff made a difference for him. But look, the Lakers and Miami had the layoff too, and they didn’t let that stop them. That’s why they’re still playing.”
Nurse also said Raptors’ center Marc Gasol was concerned about family in Spain and that impacted his level of play in Orlando.
“It was tough for him,” Nurse said. “He operates a lot better with the ease of his family being around, and the knowledge they are doing fine. He didn’t have that comfort, and they were a long way away.”
The bubble makes for a strange one-off season just because of things like this; it’s hard to pull long-term takeaways about a player, coach, or franchise out of such a strange situation. The bubble hit some teams harder than others.
Which is why the Miami Heat and Los Angeles Lakers deserve credit — the two mentally toughest teams in the league made it to the NBA Finals. These were the teams that thrived in the bubble, while others struggled.