Culture Over Everything

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With Siakam Benched, Toronto Raptors Pick Up First Win of the Year

First win of the year as the year came to a close technically.

But the drought is finally over as the Raptors improve to 1-3 after a 100-83 victory over the New York Knicks in the absence of All-Star Pascal Siakam who was benched for disciplinary reasons.

“It was a disciplinary thing for an internal matter and that’s the decision we went with tonight,” Head Coach Nick Nurse said following the win on Siakam’s benching. “[There’s] just a certain way we want to do things and everybody’s got to be a part of that, as simple as that.”

After fouling out in the prior game against the Philadelphia 76ers, Siakam left his team and went straight down the tunnel with just under 30 seconds remaining in the game. Clearly not a good look when one of the team’s young leaders is unable to maintain his composure amidst a rough start to the season. On Thursday, the Raptors had to stop the bleeding and pick up their first victory yet they chose to prioritize the culture of their organization over what was an important regular season game.

“I don’t think anybody’s happy to see him not play, but that was the decision that came down, so you roll with it,” said guard Fred VanVleet. “We’re all in this together and everybody makes mistakes. This is something that’s not gonna linger around us. P was great. He was great, he handled it very well, he was a great energy for us on the bench tonight even though he wasn’t playing, and we can’t wait to get him back out there with us.”

Despite the pre-game controversy, the Raptors were finally able to put together a strong second half.

VanVleet and Kyle Lowry led the way for the Raptors with 25 and 20 points apiece, while the trio of Alex Len, Chris Boucher, and Terence Davis provided a combined 30 points off the bench. Len in particular provided a much-needed spark with his perimeter shooting after making some interesting pre-game comments on the state of the locker room.

“He made some big shots for us tonight and I’m just glad he goes out there and competes, he looks like he’s getting more comfortable,” Nurse said of Len. “Certainly gutsy to take those, I guess a lot of guts to take the first one and it goes in starts feeling good and he’s backpeddling into the third one, I think. He was feeling it, for sure.”

The Raptors will look to keep the momentum going as they look forward towards a rematch against the New Orleans Pelicans.

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