In one of the more anticipated days of the summer for basketball junkies, the NBA announced its’ 2012-2013 schedule on Thursday, and as usual, there are some games that obviously stand out from the rest.
While I doubt the Raptors are featured in many, if any, of those games for the casual NBA fan, we’re here to cater to Raptors fans. And with that, here are the games we think you should circle on the calendar:
(Full schedule can be found here)
October 31 vs. Pacers – For the second straight season, the Raptors will open up their home schedule against the Pacers. Only this time, the Halloween night matchup will also serve as the season opener for both teams. If you’ve ever been to an opening night game at the ACC, you know the building will be rocking.
November 3 @ Nets – The team’s first road game of the season will also be the Raptors’ first trip to Brooklyn and the new Barclays Center. Aside from the whole Brooklyn story, this Saturday night matchup should give us an indication of just how improved the new look Nets will be, and how the Raptors will measure up.
November 17 @ Celtics – The Raptors were finally able to earn a split of the season series with the aging Celtics last season, and they’ll have to continue to improve against the Atlantic Division if they hope to move into playoff contention. This game against Boston would be a nice start.
November 18 vs. Magic -If Dwight Howard’s still around, the Magic should be the soap opera of the NBA in 2012-2013. If he’s not, Orlando should be dreadful. The only reason I included this game is to ask the million dollar question – Will Dwight be part of the Magic team that makes its way to Toronto for this one?
November 28 @ Grizzlies – If you know the kind of competitive young player Jerryd Bayless is, then you know he’s going to come out hungry against the Raptors in his first meeting with his former team. It would be so Raptors to be torched by J-Bay, wouldn’t it? Bayless returns to Toronto with the Grizzlies on .
December 5 @ Kings – Do we care about the first game vs. James Johnson? If you do, this is it. James and the Kings are in Toronto on January 4.
December 14 vs. Mavericks – Our first chance to see if Vince Carter’s RaptorBlog interview has changed anything for Raptors fans. My guess? The boos still rain down.
December 16 vs. Rockets – By the middle of December, we should have at least some sort of indication one way or another about how legitimate Jeremy Lin is. Will “Linsanity” take over the Air Canada Centre again, or will the whole storyline be just a played out fad by then? Kyle Lowry gets to play his former team for the first time on November 27 in Houston.
January 6 vs. Thunder – The Thunder have been one of the most exciting and marquee teams to watch over the last few seasons, but with the lockout-altered schedule in 2011-2012, this will mark the team’s first trip to Toronto in two years. Plus now they’ll be coming as defending Western Conference champions and NBA finalists, which you know, kind of makes them an even bigger deal.
January 16 vs. Bulls – Will Tom Thibodeau still have the Rose-less Bulls in playoff contention, or will they be one of the weaker teams on Toronto’s schedule?
January 20 vs. Lakers – A Sunday afternoon game against Kobe Bryant and the Lakers has pretty much become an annual tradition at the ACC and is usually one of the most anticipated games of the season for Raptors fans. Throw in Steve Nash’s first trip to Toronto since spurning the Raptors to join Kobe in L.A., and it should make for an electric atmosphere. Kid Canada won’t be booed…will he?
January 28 vs. Warriors – If you’ve been following RaptorBlog for a while, you’ll know that I’m a big Harrison Barnes guy, and I still haven’t gotten over the fact that Toronto lost out on him because of a coin toss with Golden State. Will this be the beginning of another Raptors story with a heartbreaking ending?
February 1 vs. Clippers – Like the Thunder, the Chris Paul/Blake Griffin-led Clippers didn’t journey north of the border during the lockout shortened 2011-2012 season, so you know fans at the ACC will be eager to get a good look. Will Toronto be turned into “Lob City” for the night?
February 10 vs. Hornets – This marks the first NBA visit north of the border for No. 1 pick Anthony Davis, as well as Austin Rivers, who a lot of Raptors fans thought should have been Toronto’s No. 8 overall selection on Draft night. The Raptors’ first taste of “The Unibrow” and friends will come in New Orleans on December 28.
February 13 @ Knicks – Landry Fields will have to wait until mid-February to try showing his former team that they made a mistake in letting him go. Besides Landry’s revenge, Raptors/Knicks games always seem to grab our attention, particularly at The Garden. In addition, it will be interesting to see if the Knicks can actually continue to improve in the Eastern Conference, or if they’ll be well on their way to another disappointing season by then. While it will take nearly four months before the Raptors and Knicks finally meet, this game will be the first of four matchups between the two teams in a five-week span. New York’s at the ACC on February 22 and March 22.
March 17 vs. Heat – It’s always a story when Chris Bosh comes back to town with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade at his side, but this time they’ll be coming back as NBA champions, and if you think that will ease the venom spewed from the ACC crowd, you’re sadly mistaken. Plus throwing in Ray Allen (and Rashard Lewis) gives them some star power, which they were embarrassingly short on these last couple of seasons, and the Raptors will probably be wearing St. Patrick’s Day green, which just takes this whole thing to another level. The Raps will get their first look at the Heat’s new championship banner on January 23.
April 17 vs. Celtics – The season finale. Will the Raptors be celebrating the team’s first trip to the playoffs in five years, a somewhat successful season of building, or will fans be worrying about the lottery pick they just gave Houston?
Longest home stand: Six games between January 2-13 vs. Trail Blazers, Kings, Thunder, 76ers, Bobcats, Bucks
Longest road trip: Five games between December 3-10 @ Denver, Sacramento, Utah, LA Clippers, Portland (Part of a stretch where the Raptors play 10 of 12 games away from Toronto)
Back-to-backs: 17 (Seven of these are road back-to-backs, while the other 10 are home/road splits, so no all home back-to-backs).
The pre-season schedule is usually announced much later, so all we know on that front is that the Raptors will take on the Knicks in Montreal on October 19.