Raptors Victorious In Pre-Season Opener

Jake Cooper - 07 Oct 2021

With the Raptors finally home at Scotiabank after more than 19 months away, Monday night’s victorious pre-season opener against the Philadelphia 76ers marked the best type of homecoming Toronto could have asked for.

Scoring big for the Raptors had been OG Anunoby, with 21 points personally added to his side’s 123-107 victory over the 76ers.

Also adding to the tally had been Justin Champagnie with 17 points, Scottie Barnes, Svi Mykhailiuk, and Precious Achiuwa with 13 points each, and Yuta Watanabe with 10 points posted to final scoreboard.

While coach Nick Nurse said after Monday night’s game that it hadn’t been bad to be stationed temporarily in Tampa, Florida, he had been quick to add that being back home after 584 days was a feeling that could hardly be described to anybody.

Even the buzz in the arena was just a little bit more prominent than what usually would have been the case for a pre-season game, said Nurse. 

No Place Like Home

From the last Raptors team to have played back home in Toronto, only four players remain: Anunoby, Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet, and Chris Boucher. That had been in February last year, when the Raptors suffered a marginal 99-96 loss to Charlotte.

Since then, the global health crisis has run amok with the league. And while the Raptors did their best to find a temporary station at a Tampa Marriott ballroom, which they managed to do in a record two weeks, Nurse said it just wasn’t the same as being back home.

Happiness After Seeing Fans

With the Raptors due to open their regular season at Scotiabank opposite the Washington Wizards on Oct. 20, several American teams have expressed their concerns over the potential difficulty of crossing the border.

Philadelphia coach Doc Rivers however this week said it hasn’t been a difficult experience at all. With the use of a special app, coupled with vaccination passports, Rivers said everybody on the visiting team felt safe and looked after.

While the Raptors were permitted to host only half of the arena’s fan capacity on Monday, the team said they remain hopeful that this will improve in the coming months.

Seeing their fans warmed the players’ hearts, said Fred VanVleet after Monday’s game. He said it had been a special moment for making eye contact with the people he knew missed the thrill of the game and of live attendance every bit as he did.

Monday’s game saw fans return in their drones to watch their favourite team play, with a festive crowd of 8,016 in attendance at the famous arena.

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