The Raptors have meandered through the first quarter of the regular season, slowly trying to climb their way out of a 2-8 start. The team received a jolt of energy last week in the form of back-to-back wins over the Orlando Magic (further proof that nothing makes sense this year). Fred VanVleet’s franchise-record 54 points in Tuesday’s win over the Magic will go down in Raptor regular season lore. Toronto has been a contender for almost a decade since the return of Masai Ujiri to the organization in 2013. This era will be remembered for all of the highs and lows of the postseason runs, culminating with a championship in 2019. The regular seasons (a.k.a. 82 practices) have always taken a backseat but they have produced some classic moments as well. In honour of VanVleet’s 11 three-pointers against the Magic, here are 11 other memorable regular season games since the start of the 2013-14 season.
August 12, 2020: Stanley Johnson’s game-winner vs. 76ers
Regular season games don’t have to matter in the standings for them to be memorable. Stanley Johnson’s first year with the Raptors was mostly forgettable. He fell out of the rotation from the start, and saw spare minutes over the course of the season. And then, near the end of Toronto’s eight regular season games in the bubble, the Raptors and Sixers emptied their bench in the fourth quarter of a meaningless game. We were treated to one of the most thrilling finishes of the season, as both benches became fully engaged watching second and third stringers compete in a regular season classic. Johnson took over the game late and scored the game-winning basket. Iconic.
August 1, 2020: Kyle Lowry’s masterpiece against the Los Angeles Lakers
In their first real game in the bubble (ignoring those scrimmages, although the one against the Blazers got really testy), the whole Raptors squad said never underestimate the heart of a champion in a 107-92 win over the Los Angeles Lakers. The defence held the Lakers to 35.4 percent shooting. LeBron James and Anthony Davis shot 9-for-22 from the field. Kyle Lowry led the way with 33 points, a career-high 14 rebounds and six assists, once again being the standout player in a game filled with All-Stars and future Hall-of-Famers.
February 5, 2020: Continuing a franchise-record setting win streak vs. Pacers
The entire 2019-20 regular season belongs on this list (shoutouts to Marc Gasol holding Joel Embiid to zero points, any number of road wins during the year with a shorthanded roster, beating Utah by 40 points in the first half) but a February win over the Pacers was a high point, not just because it was a franchise record 12th straight regular season but the fact the Raptors erased an 11-point lead with under four minutes to go in the fourth quarter, culminating in Serge Ibaka, who showed up to the game in his iconic scarf, hitting a go-ahead three-pointer to clinch the 119-118 win.
December 22, 2019: 30-point comeback win vs. Mavericks
“Kyle Lowry with any four guys” has been a winning formula for the Raptors for almost a decade. This was the signature “Kyle Lowry with any four guys” game. Toronto erased a 30-point second half deficit against the Mavericks, outscoring them 47-21 in the fourth quarter. Lowry played most of the fourth quarter with Terence Davis, Malcolm Miller, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Chris Boucher, finishing with 32 points and 10 assists. An absolute classic.
February 22, 2019: DeMar DeRozan’s return to Toronto
DeRozan’s first game in Toronto after the Kawhi Leonard trade was even more emotional than anyone could have expected. The game itself was just as memorable. In a closing sequence that would have been rejected in the writer's room of a television show for being too on the nose, Leonard and Kyle Lowry pressured DeRozan into a turnover at mid-court with just seconds left in the game. Leonard raced in for a one-handed slam to put the Raptors ahead for good in a 120-117 win.
March 7, 2018: Raptors clinch playoff spot in overtime win vs. Pistons
This one had everything. Toronto played another home game in Detroit, with thousands of Raptors fans invading the arena. DeMar DeRozan had 42 points and a coast-to-coast dunk in the final seconds of regulation. Fred VanVleet, a second-year guard off the bench, hit the game-winning three with just over a second remaining in overtime. The Raptors improved their regular season record to 47-17 and clinched a playoff spot with the win (please don’t mention what happened in the playoffs to me thanks).
January 1, 2018: DeMar DeRozan’s sets franchise record with 52 points vs. Bucks
The highlights speak for themselves.
March 21, 2017: Raptors beat Chicago in overtime, snap 11-game losing streak against Bulls
Jimmy Butler and the Bulls were an all-time nemesis. The Raptors came into this game on an 11-game losing streak against Chicago in the regular season. This game also had everything, including a Serge Ibaka-Robin Lopez fight, another 42 points from DeRozan, and an epic 122-120 overtime win. Butler had 37 points, 10 rebounds and six assists in the loss.
February 26, 2016: Kyle Lowry scores career-high 43 points in win over Cavaliers
One of Lowry’s many signature performances with the Raptors. A career-high 43 points against LeBron James and the Cavs, including the go-ahead jumper with four seconds left to clinch the 99-97 victory, and an iconic photo of DeRozan embracing Lowry after the shot (An honorable mention to Cory Joseph’s game-winner over Washington from the same season).
November 21, 2014: Bruno Caboclo makes his NBA debut
The chants started to rain down at the Air Canada Centre with the Raptors ahead 101-57 after three quarters. They wanted to see Bruno Caboclo. He was still two years away from being two years away (and as it turns out: a few years more), but the rookie finally made his NBA debut, playing the entire fourth quarter, getting his first basket on an alley-oop from Lou Williams, hitting two threes and scoring eight points. We didn’t get much else after that, but we’ll always have Bruno Caboclo’s first game.
January 25, 2014: Terrence Ross’s franchise record 51 points vs. Clippers
Ross’s 51-point performance was one of many great moments from the 2013-14 season. The Raptors took off after trading Rudy Gay (and not trading Kyle Lowry to the Knicks) in December. The next four months leading up to their first round series against Brooklyn remain a cherished period in Raptors history, when they turned the franchise around and started this decade-long run of success. I’ll always have a soft spot for the entire 2013-14 team.
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