TORONTO – Bradley Beal scored 23 points, Montrezl Harrell had 22 and the Washington Wizards spoiled the Raptors’ long-awaited return to Toronto with a 98-83 victory on Wednesday.
Fred VanVleet and rookie Scottie Barnes each had 12 points to beat Toronto. OG Anunoby had 11 points and 10 rebounds, while Goran Dragic and Montreal native Khem Birch each had nine points.
Anticipation had been soaring ahead of the Raptors’ first regular-season game at Scotiabank Arena in 600 days.
But the rebuilding Raptors, without veteran Kyle Lowry for the first time in a decade, struggled from the opening whistle. They lost 20 points in the first half. The gap grew to 29 in the third quarter.
A spirited comeback attempt, sparked by rookie and Toronto native Dalano Banton, finally gave fans a reason to cheer. Banton entered the game with 25 seconds left in the third in his NBA debut, and quickly dropped a triple from 49 feet to cut the Wizards’ lead to 81-59 with a fourth to play.
A dunk by Montreal native Birch scored an 11-4 Raptors run that brought them within 15 points and brought a crowd of 19,800 to life, including Drake and Olympic decathlon champion Damian Warner.
Anunoby hit a 3-pointer with 4:28 left that reduced the difference to 13. A Barnes free throw made it a 10-point game, but that was the closest they had come.
The Raptors, who are yet to feature Pascal Siakam, who is recovering from shoulder surgery, were scattered on the offensive side for the first three quarters, shooting 3-pointers off target – they were 4 of 25 from distance heading into goal. last room. – and wasting counterattack opportunities.
The bottom line was that these new-looking Raptors have a long way to go. But on a good night, it might be fun to watch them.
They shot a horrible 30.9 percent on the night, 20.6 percent from behind the arc. Washington, meanwhile, shot 45 percent from the field.
Only four Raptors remain from the roster he played in Toronto on February 28, 2020, a game against Charlotte that only history made memorable. COVID-19 shut down the NBA less than two weeks later.
Last season, border restrictions and COVID-19 protocols forced the Raptors to call Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida, their home, but it was a poor substitute for reality. They were the only NBA team that was forced to play outside of their market.
The Raptors were allowed 50 percent capacity at Scotiabank for the preseason, and on October 12 they received a green light from the Ontario government for a full crowd.
The emotional pregame ceremony featured a spoken poem “We Back” by Hannah Flores. Rapper Kardinal Offishall performed “The Anthem,” his iconic ode to Toronto.
Banton, who grew up in Toronto’s Rexdale neighborhood, is the first Canadian selected by the Raptors, couldn’t contain his huge smile during player introductions.
VanVleet received a raucous applause as he took the mic in center court. He thanked the crowd for their support and said, “We are all excited about this year, so let’s get off to the right start.”
Washington had other ideas.
The Raptors got off to a rocky start, shooting 29.2 percent in the first quarter to fall behind 26-18 in the second.
They were even more shaky in the second quarter, and when Raul Neto scored on a reverse layup with 3:47 left at half, the Wizards were up 20. Washington led 57-37 heading into the halftime break.
The Raptors are in Boston on Friday and then return home to host the Dallas Mavericks on Saturday.
This Canadian Press report was first published on October 20, 2021.
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