Everything was in place for the Toronto Raptors for their season opener. A grand celebration, a hero-like welcome upon returning to Canada after almost two years, and adoring fans. Even their opponents on the night, the Washington Wizards, are merely fringe playoff contenders, which gave the Raptors a favorable matchup on paper.
Five minutes into the second half, though, it was as though the air had been sucked out of Scotiabank Arena. The Raptors were trailing 28-40 but the crowd knew the game was mostly over. The Wizards, led by Bradley Beal, were all over the Raptors.
Fred VanVleet had a decent start to the game, but he too eventually fell into the quagmire that the Raptors were treading.
Probably the greatest “first” shot made by a debutant in NBA
Toronto native Dalano Banton was introduced 26 seconds before the end of the third quarter, making his NBA debut. Tall, lanky and sporting an infectious smile, Banton was given a thunderous welcome by the Raptors fans.
With complete disregard for the enormity of the occasion, Banton ensured his first basket in the NBA was a memorable one. As the final seconds of the quarter ticked off, he hoisted the ball, barely a step away from the center of the court, and the ball did not even acknowledge the strings of the basket as it dropped for a bucket.
Apart from being, probably, the most incredible first shot ever taken by an NBA rookie, it woke up a slumbering crowd and shouts of “let’s go Raptors” brought energy back into the stadium. The Raptors were suddenly competitive. At least for a while.
However, it was a little too late. Although they seemed to be playing with better rhythm and the final score of 83-98 brought the difference down to 15 points after they had trailed by as many as 29 points, that could have been an illusion. The Wizards chose to rest their starters once they determined that the game was over.
Toronto Raptors' numbers are concerning
The Toronto Raptors did not return acceptable numbers by any means. The 15-point loss is the second worst in franchise history for season openers. The 83 points scored is the second fewest in a season opener as well. The Raptors only shot the ball at 30.9% from the field which is their worst ever shooting performance in a season opener.
It's difficult to make any projections about the Raptors based on one game, and it would be a grave error to judge them based on this result. They're undoubtedly a young team in transition and the road ahead looks very daunting, but you never know when the pieces will start coming together.
After a quick trip to Boston to play the Celtics on October 22nd, the Toronto Raptors will return to the Scotiabank Arena to play four straight home games against the Dallas Mavericks, Chicago Bulls, Indiana Pacers and Orlando Magic in that order. This young team is certainly going to be tested in the next few days.