Without Siakam, Raptors defeat Bulls behind VanVleet's double-double

Imman Adan and Asad Alvi recap the Raptors' 113-104 win over the Bulls, with Fred VanVleet, O.G. Anunoby and Christian Koloko stepping up.

Video Transcript

IMMAN ADAN: So we are speaking to you right after the first game of the home and home versus the Chicago Bulls. The Raptors did, like Asad just said, pulled out the win, 104-113 for the Raptors there. What are your thoughts on the game that just was?

ASAD ALVI: Well, I'm sure we're going to get into a couple of topics, but well, we kind of saw one. The return of Fred VanVleet and how important Fred VanVleet is to this team. He made his presence known with 30 points right out the gate. Passing the ball 11 assists. And only, what did he have, one turnover for the game.

And that's where Fred VanVleet, regardless of where the Raptors go and how good the young guys get, it's really valuable to have an all-star like Fred VanVleet. Where you can trust him to not turn the ball over, make sure the offense get organized, and hit a ton of 3-pointers, which hey, that's something that's a little difficult for our team from time to time. So love to get-- see Fred VanVleet back. We also got to see what the team looks like in their first game without Pascal Siakam.

IMMAN ADAN: I was going to get to that. We gained a Fred VanVleet, but unfortunately, as the story went last year, this Raptors team can never be whole all together on the court it seems like. With the return of Fred VanVleet that marked the first game without Pascal Siakam. So I'll let you continue. What were your thoughts on that?

ASAD ALVI: Well, so the one thing, like, it's like, all right, with Pascal Siakam, the Raptors halfcourt offense when Pascal Siakam's out there's been pretty like middle of the pack compared to being near non-existent when he's not. I have a feeling that a lot of that has to do with what the bench lineups are. Nick Nurse still trying to figure out which bench guys can be trustworthy to not completely fall apart out there.

But with Pascal out, I think it's not as much his scoring that the Raptors miss, which they are going to miss, but the one thing that Pascal has been doing great, he's averaging like seven, eight assists a game right now. That he has been creating offense for everybody. Just attracts so much attention. Defense collapses, the ball starts moving, and suddenly you see Gary Trent, Jr shooting an open 3.

You see Scottie Barnes cutting baseline, getting the catch from the dunker spot. Easy dunk, right? So a lot of easy points created off of Pascal Siakam, either just one pass away or even two passes away. So it was interesting to see, OK, you got no Pascal operating in the middle lane of the floor.

How are the Raptors-- who are the Raptors going to go to create advantages for them? Who is going to get the offense going? And well, tonight, we saw it. It was either with Fred VanVleet and using pick-and-roll action with Christian Koloko as a rim threat.

Great game from Koloko. Interesting to see how important he's going to be moving forward. So far this season, just quickly on Koloko, 10 games in the season. Outside of like drawing fouls, he's been like a presence on the court. Like offensively, yes, it gets a little bit slower because you've got to operate with a big.

But he does put a very clear amount of pressure on the rim where the big has to kind of stick with him, players have to stick with him when he rolls because they're worried about him just being as tall as he is, he's a vertical threat. And the defensively, he has just been, like, just a presence at the rim. Where either turning people away from drives or just six blocked shots in that first game against Chicago. Pretty impressive, right?

So Fred VanVleet, you saw initiate offense in the absence of Pascal Siakam and he did it a couple of ways. Either he did it through the pick-and-roll with Christian Koloko whose rim gravity allowed for a little bit of movement there. Fred getting a little audacious with 3-point shot. Bringing his defender out further so he could kind of drive and get into the paint and start creating stuff.

And then the other way that the Raptors did it was they used a combination of Scottie Barnes and OG Anunoby. Getting them switched on to a guard, throwing the ball to them in the post, or them entering the post themselves with their handle, in the case of Scottie Barnes, and posting up the smaller guards that the Bulls had, getting into the middle of the paint and then creating from there.

So those are probably your three avenues to attract attention, draw a double, get the help defense moving, and create offense for the Raptors while Pascal Siakam is gone. And it is going to look ugly at times as well. So it was interesting to see that take place right away.

What I do worry about is how the Raptors are going to be in the fast-- in transition without Pascal Siakam because Pascal Siakam has been handling the ball for them regularly in transition, leading their transition attack that's like tops in the league. And also I wonder how the bench, like Pascal Siakam, the bench leaders haven't been great for the Raptors, but Pascal Siakam has been like a Band-Aid on everything.

You've got to throw him out there with any four guys and kind of cobble together some semblance of a decent lineup. So it'll be interesting to see what that looks like moving forward. And yeah, what went. I guess with that it's like, hey, Fred VanVleet is back from three games off.

He played 40 minutes in that first game almost, right? 39 minutes. So what minutes is Fred VanVleet looking at the next couple of weeks? It's going to be an interesting thing to kind of monitor and keep going forward with.

IMMAN ADAN: It really is. I mean, you said it there, 39 minutes. 40 minutes for Scottie. On the first night of a back-to-back.


It's going to be-- it's going to be a tough road now.