The Toronto Raptors retuned to Scotiabank Arena last night, in front of a sellout crowd. Sean Woodley and I were there, and you can read Woodley’s recap here; my impressions of the rookies will be up in a little bit. For now, let’s get to a few quick thoughts!
1. Let’s get it started
The pre-game ceremony last night tipped off with this spoken word reading from Hannah Flores, and it was 100% a goosebump moment. This is really cool:
There really was a vibe in the pre-game last night, during this video, and definitely during Kardinal’s singing of an updated, Raptor-ized version of The Anthem. (I really, truly hope he’s recorded this and it becomes part of every introduction.) By the time Fred VanVleet got on the mic to say welcome back, the crowd was raring to go. It was just a really cool scene and you could see even Dalano Banton was feeling some emotion.
It felt pretty great to be in the area for this one.
2. Energy, energy, energy
Unfortunately, the Wizards took the crowd out of it by jumping out to a big lead. But after Banton closed the third quarter with his buzzer-beater, the energy was back, and helped propel the Raptors to a much stronger fourth, even if they really never threatened.
After the game Banton spoke extensively about that energy, and how just doing the little things, like communicating on D and using his fresh legs to get to his spots quickly, can help bring his teammates and the crowd to life. It sure worked! Yeah, it was another fake comeback, but at least it let the fans leave the game on a high note.
3. Missing Siakam
We all knew the Raptors weren’t going to be a great halfcourt team, but hoo boy, was that ugly last night. I’m not going to suggest that Pascal Siakam can clear up all the issues when he comes back, but having a multi-level scoring threat — especially if he can rediscover his three-point stroke — will make a huge difference.
I also think Goran Dragic needs to have a bigger role. He’s a strong pick-and-roll player, knows how to play under control in the half court and can shoot the three. And, I think Fred VanVleet is still stronger off the ball than on.
Dragic only played 22 minutes last night, and I think that number needs to be higher.
4. Whoa, shooting woes
Was the shooting really that bad last night?
Worst shooting night from the field for the Raptors since December 2018. Span of 190 games.— Chris Black (@DownToBlack) October 21, 2021
Raptors lose! Only 14 assists and an awful 38.9 TS%, the altter a bottom-15 mark in franchise history— Blake Murphy (@BlakeMurphyODC) October 21, 2021
Some of it is variance, of course. The Raptors missed several wide-open looks that, on any other night you might expect to drop. Some of it might have been opening night jitters, or unfamiliarity of playing in front of a real crowd for the first time in ages.
But yeah, you’re not gonna win a lot of games shooting like that.
5. Open Gym season 10
I can’t believe this is the 10th season of Open Gym! The season’s first ep is up now, focusing on Scottie Barnes, and surely you’ve seen the clip of him celebrating getting drafted, and then the Raptors management celebrating... just a big love-in all around.
And here’s your season 10 schedule:
If for some crazy reason, you haven’t been watching Open Gym all along, I definitely encourage you to go back and watch past episodes, or at least the ones focusing on your favourite players and playoff moments. It really is an impressive piece of branded entertainment.