Everyone and anyone associated with the Toronto Raptors in some way, from the players themselves to the team staff and of course the fans, have waited for the day the team would return to Scotiabank Arena.
The place our team calls home was left vacant for far too long — 600 days in fact, from the time the last home game was played to the time where the Raptors will hopefully be back on Opening Night.
The last time the Toronto Raptors played at home?— Esfandiar | Es (@JustEsBaraheni) August 20, 2021
February 28th, 2020
The next time the Raptors will play in Toronto (hopefully)?
October 20th 2021
That’s right, “hopefully.” Why? Well, as much as the Raptors and the NBA have pointed to a return back to Toronto, the final decision will have to come from the federal government, and at this point we can only hope for that to be approved.
Was just told by a Raptors spokesperson that this video, while quite exciting, is not official confirmation that the Raptors are coming home to Toronto for sure. The government still needs to make that announcement. https://t.co/z99VL5owHE— Steven Loung (@loung_s) August 20, 2021
Nonetheless, the season will go on in or out of Toronto, and with the NBA releasing the 2021-22 schedule for all teams, I am back once again to break down the entire Raptors schedule. There is a lot to discuss, so follow along for the complete breakdown below!
Let’s begin with the breakdown of games played at home and on the road by month. The Raps get a home-heavy start to their season in October — deservedly so after being away from Toronto for so long. From there, the Raptors flip-flop between having more away games than home games and vice-versa.
What about the more gruelling parts of the NBA season: the back-to-backs and the three-games-in-four-nights stretches. For the season, Toronto will have 14 sets of back-to-backs. The OKC-Houston back-to-back in February seems to be the easiest back-to-back the Raptors will have this season, while the other 13 back-to-backs feature at least one tough opponent in the front or back-end of the trip, or both games being against difficult opponents. What we could probably expect is a sub-par record regarding back-to-backs.
Meanwhile, the Raptors will have 13 sets of three-games-in-four-nights, with every single one of them being a difficult and a good test. I have included in bolded brackets which game will be the front-end of the back-to-back or in the back-end of their three-games-in-four-nights stretches.
The season is back to 82 games which means the return of four four-game division series, several four-game season series’ against teams in the same conference, and a few three-game season series against conference opponents (the league office draws at random in terms of which team gets to have two games at home and one on the road).
The Raptors will play four four-game series against their Atlantic Division foes in the Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets, New York Knicks, and the Philadelphia 76ers. Each team will play two games at home and two games on the road. Not that division titles are all that significant anymore, but the 76ers were crowned the Atlantic Division champs last season. The Raptors, while unlikely, are looking to win their eighth division title in franchise history, with their last one coming in the 2019-20 season.
And here are the five three-game season series the Raptors will play against: Charlotte Hornets (one home, two away), Cleveland Cavaliers (one home, two away), Detroit Pistons (two home, one away), Milwaukee Bucks (one home, two away), Orlando Magic (two home, one away).
As usual, the Raps will play each team in the Western Conference twice, one at home and one on the road, for a total of 30 games.
National TV Games
The Raptors will get the eyes from the U.S. national TV audience six times this season, which is down just one from last season. They will get four games on NBA TV and one game each on TNT and ESPN. Below is the National TV broadcast schedule. All game times are in eastern standard time:
Mon., Nov. 1, 2021: at New York Knicks on NBA TV at 7:30 p.m.
Thurs., Nov. 11, 2021: at Philadelphia 76ers on NBA TV at 7:00 p.m.
Fri., Jan. 21, 2021: at Washington Wizards on ESPN at 8:00 p.m.
Thurs., Feb. 3, 2022: vs. Miami Heat on TNT at 7:30 p.m.
Fri., Feb. 4, 2022: vs. Atlanta Hawks on NBA TV at 7:30 p.m.
Sun., Apr. 3, 2022: vs. Miami Heat on NBA TV at 7:00 p.m.
To conclude the breakdown of the schedule, here is the full season sked for the Raptors:
Key Games and Dates for the Season
After not playing in Toronto for an entire season, the 2021-22 season will be filled with players returning to Toronto for the first time as a former Raptor while also getting proper tribute videos, and… receiving hardware! (Finally, *cough cough* Danny Green). With these in mind, here are key games you should circle on your calendar. (All games are under the assumption that the Raptors will return to Toronto and all game times are in eastern standard time.)
Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021, at 7:30 PM: vs. Washington Wizards | Season/home opener
The Raps will open their 27th season against Bradley Beal and his new-look Wizards.
Mon., Oct. 25, 2021, at 7:30 PM: vs. Chicago Bulls | DeMar DeRozan returns to Toronto as a Chicago Bull
Toronto welcomes former Raptor great, DeMar DeRozan — who is now on his second team since being traded by the Raptors in 2018. DeRozan signed a 3-year, $85-million deal with Chicago this offseason and will look to bolster the Bulls’ offensive firepower with Zach LaVine and Nikola Vucevic.
Fri., Oct. 29, 2021, at 7:00 PM: vs. Orlando Magic | Scottie Barnes vs. Jalen Suggs
One of the most anticipated games of the year will come just six games into the year with Scottie Barnes, the no. 4 pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, going up against no. 5 pick Jalen Suggs.
Mon., Nov. 1, 2021, at 7:30 PM: at New York Knicks | NBA 75th Anniversary Game
The NBA will have several games in which they will celebrate 75 years of NBA basketball. These games will feature classic matchups to honour and celebrate teams, players, coaches, and moments ever since the NBA came into existence. For this game specifically, the Raptors and Knicks will commemorate the first-ever NBA game, played between Toronto Huskies and the New York Knickerbockers on November 1, 1946.
Fri., Nov. 5, 2021, at 7:30 PM: vs. Cleveland Cavaliers | Evan Mobley vs. Scottie Barnes
As a raw, electric big with unlimited potential, Evan Mobley would have been a great fit for Toronto. But the ping-pong balls landed in Cleveland’s favour and the Raptors took the next best player on their list in Barnes.
Sun., Nov. 7, 2021, at 3:30 PM: vs. Brooklyn Nets | Nets Big 3 come into town
A healthy Nets team with Kyrie Irving, James Harden, and Kevin Durant may be the league’s most lethal team — it could get ugly for the Raps.
Sat., Nov. 13, 2021, at 7:30 PM: vs. Detroit Pistons | First look at no. 1 pick Cade Cunningham
Top pick Cade Cunningham will get to showcase his talent in front of Raptor fans just 14 games into the season. Let’s just hope head coach Nick Nurse throws some janky defense at Cunningham so that former Raptor coach Dwane Casey — known for his lack of in-game adjustments — can sit there and watch his franchise cornerstone piece get hounded by the Raptors’ D.
Thurs., Dec. 2, 2021, at 7:30 PM: vs. Milwaukee Bucks | Toronto hosts the defending champs
Reigning NBA Finals MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and the 2021 NBA Champion Milwaukee Bucks will make their way into Toronto on Dec. 2. We should probably expect VanVleet to cook Giannis once or twice on an iso possession. See here:
fred vanvleet did that to giannis pic.twitter.com/5avylD40gc— William Lou (@william_lou) February 17, 2021
Wed., Dec. 8, 2021, at 7:30 PM: vs. Oklahoma City Thunder | All About The Canadians
The National Basketball Association? More like the Canadian Basketball Association! This game will feature five Canadians: Hamilton’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Montreal’s finest in Chris Boucher, Khem Birch and Lu Dort, along with our very own Rexdale Man Dalano Banton.
Tue., Dec. 28, 2021, at 7:30 PM: vs. Philadelphia 76ers | Danny Green FINALLY gets his 2019 championship ring
Danny Green finally, finally makes his return to Toronto to receive his 2019 championship ring. Ever since signing with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2019 and moving to the Philadelphia 76ers in 2020, Green had passed up several opportunities to receive his ring in L.A., Philly, or Tampa so that he could get it in front of the Raptors faithful in Toronto. Let’s just hope this saga comes to an end with fans celebrating Green and him finally taking home his piece of jewellery.
Fri., Dec. 31, 2021, at 7:30 PM: vs. Los Angeles Clippers | New Year’s Eve and Serge Ibaka’s return to Toronto
2021 ends with the one and only Ma Fuzzy Chef, Serge Ibaka, returning to Toronto for the first time as a former Raptor. He truly was one of the most beloved players in Raptors history, and we will definitely see that in the tribute video along with the reception he’ll receive in front of the fans.
Sun., Jan. 9, 2022, at 6:00 PM: vs. New Orleans Pelicans | JV returns to Toronto
Another beloved former Raptor, Jonas Valanciunas, finally makes his return to Toronto. JV was traded to Memphis in the Marc Gasol trade and he was recently dealt to the Pelicans to help bolster their frontcourt offense. JV will indeed get a splendid ovation.
Mon., Jan. 17, 2022, at 7:30 PM: at Miami Heat | First game against Kyle Lowry, MLK Day
This will be the first time the Raptors will be playing against Kyle Lowry in almost 10 years, going back to March 7, 2012.
Sun., Jan. 23, 2022, at 6:00 PM: vs. Portland Trail Blazers | Norman Powell returns to Toronto
OK, how many former Raptor homecomings are we at now? That seems to be the theme for this season as Norman Powell makes his first return to Toronto after being traded last season for Gary Trent Jr. Funny thing about the trade was that Norm and his Trail Blazers went on to face the Raptors in Tampa just four days after the trade. Now, he’ll get the proper ovation and tribute video in Toronto.
Tue., Feb. 3, 2022, at 7:30 PM: vs. Miami Heat | Kyle Lowry returns to Toronto
This will arguably be one of the most emotional nights in franchise history. The Raptors’ forever icon, number seven, KLOE, the greatest Raptor of all time, Kyle Lowry will make his first return to Toronto as a member of the Miami Heat. The tribute video and the ovation will be like DeMar DeRozan levels but 10 times more than that. Gear up for what will be a tearful night.
Thurs., Feb. 10, 2022, at 8:00 PM: at Houston Rockets | First look at no. 2 pick Jalen Green
The Raptors will travel to Houston to get their first look at Jalen Green, who is likely the most flashy and explosive player in this year’s draft class.
Fri., Apr. 8, 2022, at 7:30 PM: vs. Houston Rockets | Home finale
The Raptors’ last home game of the season will be against the Rockets. If the 2020-21 season has taught us anything, it’s that we should never take playing at home for granted, so make sure to get out there and cheer one last time for what will be the last home game of the 2021-22 season.
Sun., Apr. 10, 2022, time TBD: at New York Knicks | Season finale
Toronto will close out the 2021-22 season against the Knicks in Madison Square Garden. We truly don’t know if this team will be near the bottom or a playoff contention team, but what we can hope for is a win that will likely mess up the Knicks’ playoff odds/seeding. After all, it’s fun beating the Knicks.
Tough Stretches This Season
The NBA season is a grind and, in this NBA life, comes tough stretches. The Raps, like all teams, will indeed have plenty of them, so here are some tough periods they will have to endure. These stretches account for strong teams, back-to-backs, three-games-in-four-nights, and road trips.
Tough Stretches in November
Tough three-game stretch here, including a back-to-back on the back-end of a road trip:
- Nov. 7 vs. Nets, Nov. 10 at Celtics, Nov. 11 at 76ers
First long road trip of the season, six games total, including one back-to-back:
- Nov. 15 at Trail Blazers, Nov. 18 at Jazz, Nov. 19 at Kings, Nov. 21 at Warriors, Nov. 24 at Grizzlies, Nov. 26 at Pacers
Tough Stretch in December
Tough 4-gamer to end 2021:
- Dec. 22 at Bulls, Dec. 26 at Cavaliers, Dec. 28 vs. 76ers, Dec. 31 vs. Clippers
Tough Stretches in January
Tough start to 2022:
- Jan. 5 at Bucks, Jan. 7 vs Jazz, Jan. 9 vs. Pelicans, Jan. 11 vs. Suns
5-game road trip with one back-to-back (5 games in 8 nights total):
- Jan. 14 at Pistons, Jan. 15 at Bucks, Jan. 17 at Heat, Jan. 19 at Mavericks, Jan. 21 at Wizards
Tough Stretches in February/March
Two teams in three nights, featuring Kyle Lowry’s return to Toronto:
- Feb. 1 at Hawks, Feb. 3 vs. Heat, Feb. 4 vs. Hawks
Coming off the 2022 All-Star Weekend:
- Feb. 25 at Hornets, Feb. 26 at Hawks, Mar. 1 vs. Nets
Tough Stretches in March
Another 6-game road trip:
- Mar. 6 at Cavaliers, Mar. 9 at Spurs, Mar. 11 at Suns, Mar. 12 at Nuggets, Mar. 14 at Lakers, Mar. 16 at Clippers
Following the 6-game road trip, a tough 3-game stretch that follows suit. Total of nine games in 16 nights:
- Mar. 18 vs. Lakers, Mar. 20 at 76ers, Mar. 21 at Bulls
Tough Stretch in April
Difficult 3-game homestand:
- Apr. 3 vs. Heat, Apr. 5 vs. Hawks, Apr. 7 vs. 76ers
Other Schedule Tidbits
The Raptors will travel roughly 40,000 miles (64,373.76 kilometres) this season, which ranks them ninth-lowest in the league. This is in part because their opponents are in somewhat proximity with each other when the Raptors go on road trips.
NBA 2021-22: Distance teams have to travel over the season. pic.twitter.com/zBSufNMAMQ— Ed Kupfer (@EdKupfer) August 21, 2021
With regards to the strength of schedule and expected wins, the Raptors are in contention to be at least in the run for a play-in spot. However, it won’t be easy. Vegas has them around 36/37 wins on the season, but they have the seventh hardest schedule based on the win percentage of teams in the 2020-21 season. With Pascal Siakam set to miss time as he recovers from his shoulder injury, the Raptors will need every bit of luck and a fairly healthy team to reach that estimate.
NBA 2021-22 expected team wins (horizontal axis) and average expected opponent strength (vertical axis—difficult schedules are at the top, easier schedules at the bottom). pic.twitter.com/uZVjxw1uVl— Ed Kupfer (@EdKupfer) August 20, 2021
That about concludes the breakdown of the Raptors’ schedule. We don’t know what to expect from this season, but we should temper our expectations. Our captain is gone, it’s a new team, and a new era upon us. Enjoy the ride, folks.