The NBA released the schedule for all 30 teams on Friday. Here is a complete guide of everything you need to know about this season’s schedule for the Raptors.
Over the past couple of years, the NBA has made an effort to cut down on back-to-backs and the number of three games in four nights played, and for this upcoming season, cuts have been at historic lows.
Notable tidbits on 2018-19 NBA schedule: No four-games-in-five nights again; back-to-backs are at historic lows (average of 13.3 per team this season, it was 19.3 in '14-15 and 14.4 last season) -- and elimination of eight games in 12 nights for first time.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) August 10, 2018
Last season, the Raptors had 14 back-to-backs, going 19-9 and 13 sets of three games in four nights and posted a record of 27-12. This season, Toronto will have 12 back-to-backs and 11 sets of three games in four nights.
This season's NBA schedule features the fewest # of back-to-backs ever. Raptors have 12.— Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) August 10, 2018
Raps back-to-backs per season:
Here is a chart that breaks down the schedule by month:
- The Raptors will play four 4-game season-series against their Atlantic Division rivals in the Boston Celtics, New York Knicks, Brooklyn Nets, and Philadelphia 76ers, with each team within the division playing two games at home and two on the road.
- The Raptors will also play five 4-game season-series within opponents in the Eastern Conference in the Chicago Bulls, Cleveland Cavaliers, Milwaukee Bucks, Orlando Magic, Miami Heat and the Washington Wizards. (Note: Last season, including divisional season-series, the Raptors swept five 4-game season-series out of a potential ten.)
- Toronto will play four 3-game season-series against the Atlanta Hawks, Charlotte Hornets, Detroit Pistons, and Indiana Pacers.
- The Raptors will play 30 games against Western Conference opponents, with each team playing one home game and one road game.
Here is the complete schedule for the 2018-19 season.
Nationally Televised Games
With a new-look Raptors team entering this season, it was only fitting Toronto got some of the national spotlight. The Raptors will have 15 nationally televised games, which is tied for the franchise’s second-most appearances since 2000-01.
Correction: this should read "tied for the 2nd-most in franchise history" with 15 scheduled national TV games in the US. They got 15 in 2000-01 and 17 in 2001-02. Full list here: pic.twitter.com/W4kUvOISPC— Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) August 10, 2018
Here is the list of games that will be nationally televised this season:
Raptors 2018-19 US TV games:— Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) August 10, 2018
ESPN: v BOS (Oct 19), @ BOS (Nov 16), v PHI (Dec 5), @ GSW (Dec 12), @ BOS (Jan 16), @ HOU (Jan 25), v SAN (Feb 22), @ OKC (Mar 20).
TNT: v GSW (Nov 29), @ SAN (Jan 3), v MIL (Jan 31), @ PHI (Feb 5), v BOS (Feb 26), v HOU (Mar 5), v LAL (Mar 14).
Key Games This Season
Here is a list of key games to circle on your calendar:
October 17 @ 7:30 PM - Home/Season opener vs. Cleveland Cavaliers
- Is there anything better than winning the home/season opener against the team that swept you in the playoffs the season before?
October 19 @ 8:00 PM - Raptors vs. Celtics
- The Raptors didn’t play a fully-healthy Celtics squad last season, so this should be a great second game of the season.
October 20 @ 7:00 PM - Raptors vs. Wizards
- Toronto will visit the Wizards in Washington in the first meeting of the season since defeating them in six games in last year’s playoffs.
October 29 @ 8:00 PM - Raptors at Bucks
- The will be the first of four games of Raptors vs. Bucks, or Kawhi Leonard vs. Giannis Antetokounmpo. Arguably the top two players in the Eastern Conference, The Klaw and the Greek Freak will be going at it for what will be a great treat for fans early in the season.
October 30 @ 7:30 PM - Raptors vs. 76ers
- It’s always a fun time when the Raptors face the 76ers. Toronto won the season-series 3-1 last season and will look to carry their regular season dominance over the high-flying 76ers into 2018-19 as Toronto is 18-2(!) in the last five seasons.
November 4 @ 9:30 PM - Raptors at L.A. Lakers
- After sweeping the Raptors in the playoffs the last three years as a member of the Cavaliers, LeBron James and the Lakers will host the Raptors in an interconference matchup. This will be the second game of a four-game west coast road trip.
November 14 @ 7:30 PM - Raptors vs. Pistons
- Arguably the greatest coach in Toronto Raptors history, now-Pistons head coach, Dwane Casey, will make his return back to Toronto after being fired shortly after the Raptors were swept by the Cavaliers in May. Casey served as the Raptors’ head coach for seven years and became the winningest coach in Raptors history, improved the team’s record six out of the seven seasons, won the 2017-18 Coach of the Year, and more, so Casey should be deserving of a warm welcome back.
November 29 @ 8:00 PM - Raptors vs. Warriors
- The Raptors haven’t beat the Warriors since 2014 and last year’s game in Toronto being one of the tougher losses of the season. More on this below.
December 26 @ 7:30 PM - Raptors at Miami
- Toronto will not play on Christmas for the 17th season in a row but will play on Boxing Day yet again as they visit the Heat in Miami. The Raptors are 7-6 when they play on Boxing Day.
January 1 @ 7:30 PM - Raptors vs. Jazz
- After starting last season 19-28, the Jazz went on an 11-game win streak, with the second win of that streak coming from a 97-93 victory in Toronto. A late-game miscue on defense by the Raptors led to a wide-open Ricky Rubio three-pointer that eventually cost Toronto the game. However, this season, the Raptors have Kawhi Leonard and Kawhi is good on defense. Should be a good game.
January 3 @ 8:00 PM - Raptors at Spurs
- Kawhi Leonard (and Danny Green) will make his return to San Antonio for the first time since being traded to Toronto. Leonard spent seven years with the Spurs, winning an NBA title and NBA Finals MVP in 2014, and winning back-to-back Defensive Player of the Year awards in 2015 and 2016, all while becoming a top-five player in the league.
February 22 @ 7:00 PM - Raptors vs. Spurs
- The first game back after the All-Star break will feature DeMar DeRozan’s (and Jakob Poeltl’s) return to Toronto. DeRozan was drafted by Toronto in 2009 and spent nine years here, growing his game each year and embracing Toronto as his second home. He was instrumental in making the Raptors relevant again since Chris Bosh’s departure, as the Raptors once again became a winning basketball organization. Expect this to be an emotional night for him and the fans.
March 5 @ 8:00 PM– Raptors vs. Rockets
- Last season’s Rockets vs. Raptors game in Toronto was arguably game of the year for the Raptors. Houston was riding a 17-game win streak into Toronto but were lethargic to begin the game as they were down as many as 19 points in the second quarter and 18 at mid-way point in the third. The Raptors had the advantage throughout most of the game until the Rockets flipped the script and came back to tie it at 102 in the late stages of the game but couldn’t come out with the win. This year’s meeting should be just as exciting as last season’s as Kawhi Leonard will try to hold James Harden’s performance from a season ago to under 40 points on 15-for-22 shooting from the field.
March 14 @ 8:00PM - Raptors vs. Lakers
- LeBron James will make his way to Toronto for the first and only time of the regular season as a Los Angeles Laker since going off for 43 points on 19-for-28 shooting from the field as well as dishing out 14 assists in the Cavaliers' Game 2 blowout over the Raptors of the second round in last season’s playoffs.
March 20 @ 9:30 PM - Raptors at Thunder | March 22 @ 7:30 PM - Raptors vs. Thunder
- Home-and-home series against interconference opponents are rare for any team but nonetheless, the Raptors will complete their season-series with the Thunder in just three nights!
April 7 @ 12:00 PM - Raptors vs. Heat
- Last year Toronto ended their 2017-18 regular season against the Heat in Miami. This year, they will play their last home of the season against the Heat on Sunday, April 7... at noon!
April 9 @ 8:00 PM - Raptors at Timberwolves
- Toronto will end their 2018-19 campaign against the Timberwolves in Minnesota. Depending on seeding implications, this could be the most important game of the season.
Tough Stretches for the 2018-19 Season
Here are the toughest stretches the Raptors will go through the course of the 2018-19 season:
Oct. 17 vs. Cleveland | Oct. 19 vs. Boston | Oct. 20 at Washington
The Raptors open their season against the Cavaliers in a rematch of the last season’s disappointing second-round playoff sweep. This will be the beginning of the Raptors’ first set of 11-three games in four nights. In their 24-year history, Toronto is 14-9 in season openers and 1-0 against the Cavaliers. That victory was back in 2009 when the Raptors won 101-91.
After the Cavaliers game, the Raptors will begin their first back-to-back of the season against the Celtics. The Raptors tied the Celtics at two games apiece in last season’s season-series, so a win against a deep Celtics team early in the early season will get the Raptors’ confidence going with their revamped team and system.
The first set of 11-three games in four nights will conclude in Washington as the Raptors will take on the Wizards. As mentioned before, it will be the first meeting between the two since last season’s first round playoff matchup where Toronto won in six games. This will be a good challenge for them early on in the season.
Oct. 29 at Milwaukee | Oct. 30 vs. Philadelphia | Nov. 2 at Phoenix | Nov. 4 at L.A. Lakers | Nov. 5 at Utah | Nov. 7 at Sacramento
Just like last season, the Raptors open their 2018-19 season with a road-heavy schedule. The first 11 of 19 games are played on the road that features two 4-game road trips. The first being a west coast road trip, where they take on the Suns, Lakers, Jazz and Kings from November 2-7. Before they begin that road trip, Toronto will play a back-to-back against the Bucks in Milwaukee and the 76ers in Toronto.
Nov. 16 at Boston | Nov. 17 at Chicago | Nov. 20 at Orlando | Nov. 21 at Atlanta
Continuing onto the first 11 of 19 games, the second road trip is when they head out to visit the Celtics, Bulls, Magic and Hawks from November 16-21. It will be two sets of back-to-backs with two days off in between. Other than when they play the Celtics, Toronto should have an easy way with the Bulls, Magic and Hawks — who placed 13th, 14th, and 15th respectively, in the Eastern Conference last season.
Nov. 27 at Memphis | Nov. 29 vs. Golden State | Dec. 1 at Cleveland | Dec. 3 vs. Denver | Dec. 5 vs. Philadelphia
This stretch features a weird mix of home and away games. Toronto will head out to Memphis, then fly back to Toronto where they will have an off day before they take on the Warriors. Last year’s game with Golden State in Toronto was a barnburner, where the Raptors trailed as many as 27 points in the second quarter and were completely out of it until the late stages of the third and fourth quarters where they came all the way back only to lose by two points in the end. Note: During the course of the Warriors dominance over the NBA, the Raptors have matched pretty well with them. The past three season-series, Toronto’s losses to Golden State have only been by two, three, five, six and 10 points.
Moving on, Toronto will travel to Cleveland for the first time since being swept on their home floor last season. The Raptors will then come back home to play the Nuggets and 76ers – with both games being a good challenge for them.
Dec. 11 at L.A. Clippers | Dec. 12 at Golden State | Dec. 14 at Portland | Dec. 16 at Denver
This will be the final west coast trip the Raptors will go on for the season. It features three games in four nights — going up against a mediocre Clippers team, a powerhouse Warriors team, and a strong Trail Blazers squad. These three games will be a good test for the Raptors as this will be close to the mid-way point of the season, so they should have a good idea of which lineups work best against other teams’ personnel as well as adapting to head coach Nick Nurse’s system.
The Raptors end their trip in the Mile High City with a game against the Nuggets. Toronto hasn’t performed well in the 22 games they have played in Denver as the franchise has won only seven games. Last season, in what was one of the worst losses, Toronto came out sluggish against the Nuggets with nothing clicking on both ends of the floor, losing 129-111. That loss came in the fifth game of a six-game western road trip, so fatigue played a part. To add, teams generally struggle to adjust to Denver’s high altitude when playing against the Nuggets. Similar to last season, Toronto will end their trip in Denver.
Jan. 1 vs. Utah | Jan. 3 at San Antonio | Jan. 5 at Milwaukee | Jan. 6 vs. Indiana
The Raptors will play on New Year’s Day when they ring in 2019 at home against the Utah Jazz. Toronto has won three straight years when they play on New Years and their overall record is 4-2.
After they take on the Jazz, the Raptors will head to San Antonio where Kawhi Leonard will make his return and Spurs guard DeMar DeRozan will go up against his former teammates as well. Toronto hasn’t played well in the 22 visits they have paid to San Antonio as they have won only four games, with their last win coming in December 2007.
The Raptors will have an off day before their next back-to-back outing, where they head to Milwaukee for what will be the third time, so this will be a key game in deciding the season-series winner in the fourth contest that could possibly have seeding implications. After their game in Milwaukee, Toronto will come back home to play the Pacers.
Feb. 11 vs. Brooklyn | Feb. 13 vs. Washington | Feb. 22 vs. San Antonio | Feb. 24 vs. Orlando | Feb. 26 vs. Boston | Mar. 1 vs. Portland
This will be the longest home stand the Raptors will have all season. The first two game are against the Nets and Wizards, followed by the All-Star Break, which will be held in Charlotte.
After the break, Toronto will host the Spurs in what will be DeMar DeRozan’s first game back to the city and team that drafted him in 2009.
The following three games will conclude the six-game home stand, when the Magic, Celtics and Trail Blazers come into town. The Celtics game, however, will be the utmost important one because it will be the final game of the four-game divisional season-series and could also have seeding implications come season's end.
Mar. 5 vs. Houston | Mar. 8 at New Orleans | Mar. 10 at Miami | Mar. 11 at Cleveland | Mar. 14 vs. L.A. Lakers
These five games will be the last tough stretch the Raptors will face. It features a back-to-back and their second-last set of three games in four nights. The first game of five is a home game against the Houston Rockets and will be around the same date as last season’s game in Toronto, which was on March 9. As mentioned above, last year’s game in Toronto was a thriller as Toronto defeated Houston 108-105 and snapped the Rockets’ 17-game win streak.
After their game against the Rockets, the Raptors will go on a three-game road trip paying visits to New Orleans, and their second-last back-to-back set against Miami and Cleveland.
This five-game stretch concludes when LeBron James and the Lakers make their way to Toronto. Since this game will be played near the end of the regular season, the intensity for this game will be high, so be sure to catch this game if you can.
The Road Less Traveled (Literally)
The common narrative that follows the Raptors when it comes to playing road is that since Toronto is north of the border, they have a disadvantage because of all the travelling they have to go through. However, according to Ed Kupfer, Toronto will travel approximately just under 40,000 miles for the season. To add, because of the decrease of long road trips (four game road trips at a time being the most) this season, Toronto’s travel schedule will be lighter than previous years.
NBA 2018-19: Miles traveled by each team pic.twitter.com/xYyiJK7joO— Ed Küpfer (@EdKupfer) August 10, 2018
Strength of Schedule
By opening the season with a road-heavy schedule as well as facing strong teams early in the season and finishing off most of the year playing weaker teams, the Raptors’ strength of schedule ranks in the bottom fifth in the league, according to Jared Dubin.
Got a request to post this sorted by SoS. Here it is in ranked form. Nine of the 10 toughest schedules are in the West, with Atlanta (??) being the only exception. pic.twitter.com/iMJ6k7JGoh— Yaya Dubin (@JADubin5) August 10, 2018
All that remains are training camps and the preseason until Toronto’s season tips-off on October 17, so gear up, Raptor fans! This season should be a good one.
All stats and records were provided by Basketball-Reference.com and Landofbasketball.com.