10 Games To Circle

Holly MacKenzie - Raptors.com

The NBA released the 2018-19 schedule on Friday afternoon. Though we knew the Raptors, like every other team, would be playing 82 games with 41 at home and 41 on the road (and five preseason games as well), the full schedule provides an opportunity to look at some noteworthy dates and matchups to circle on the calendar.

First, a quick overview of the work the league has done to improve scheduling and rest times across the board in its 73rd regular season schedule:

  • The 2018-19 NBA regular season will officially tip-off on Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2018, and will conclude on Wednesday, April 10, 2019. This season’s schedule will be the fourth consecutive year that the league has trimmed the number of back-to-backs played.
  • Teams will average 13.3 back-to-backs this year, a 31 percent drop since the 2014-15 season (19.3 back-to-backs per team).
  • For the second consecutive season, the schedule will be without any stretch of a team playing four games in five nights,  and the times a team will have five games in seven days has been reduced 42 percent from a season ago.

With these league logistics out of the way, a few more notes, specific to Raptors’ scheduling this season:

  • The team will be without the dreaded two-week long road trip this season: the longest stretch away from Scotiabank Arena will be for a four-game swing, something that will happen three times over the course of the season.
  • Concerning the aforementioned back-to-backs, Toronto will have 12 back-to-back contests this season, two fewer than during 2017-18. Five will be road-road back-to-backs. 

If the full schedule is too much to take in right now, here are 10 dates to circle on your calendar: 

  1. Oct. 17, 2018 - The Raptors will tip off the 24th season in franchise history at home, taking on the Cleveland Cavaliers at 7:30 P.M. at Scotiabank Arena. Of course, last year’s Eastern Conference Semifinals matchup will look vastly different this time around. Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green now wear Raptors red and familiar foe LeBron James left Cleveland to join the Los Angeles Lakers during offseason free agency.
  2. Oct. 19, 2018: Just two days later, the Raptors will make their U.S national TV season debut, hosting the division rival Boston Celtics. While the Raptors finished with the top seed in the Eastern Conference last season, the Celtics were the second seed.
  3. Nov. 29, 2018: The back-to-back NBA Champion Golden State Warriors are in Toronto to take on the Raptors at 8 P.M. This game will be televised nationally in the U.S. On TNT. 
  4. Dec. 5, 2018: The Raptors will take on Joel Embiid and the Philadelphia 76ers in the fifth annual Giant of Africa game. Celebrating the life of Nelson Mandela as well as his belief that sport has the power to change the world, this game is played on the anniversary of Mandela’s death.
  5. Jan. 1, 2019: Though the team will be on the road over the Christmas holiday, the Raptors will tip-off the new year at home, taking on the Utah Jazz.
  6. Feb. 22, 2019: The San Antonio Spurs will have their lone visit to Toronto. This will be San Antonio’s first visit to Scotiabank Arena since the blockbuster trade between the two teams that took place over the offseason.
  7. Mar. 5, 2019: The Raptors will take on 2017-18 NBA MVP James Harden and the Houston Rockets. Last season’s home meeting against the Rockets turned out to be one of the most exciting games of the season as the Raptors snapped a 17-game Rockets winning streak in a thrilling 108-105 victory.
  8. Mar. 14, 2019: The Los Angeles Lakers will make its lone trip to Toronto. After 15 seasons in the Eastern Conference, this will be the first time that LeBron James has played in the opposite conference than the Raptors and this will also be his lone regular-season visit to Scotiabank Arena this year as well.
  9. Mar. 20 and Mar. 22, 2019: The Raptors will have an interesting pair of games in late March. First, they will head to Oklahoma City to take on Russell Westbrook, Paul George and the Thunder on Wednesday. After the game, the Raptors will return to Toronto to prepare for Friday’s game, also against the Thunder. 
  10. April 7, 2019: The Raptors will close out the regular season two days after this, on the road in Minnesota, but their final regular-season home game at Scotiabank Arena will be a Sunday afternoon matinee against the Miami Heat at noon.