Drake's shenanigans highlight best moments from Raptors' return to Toronto

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The Raptors fell to the Washington Wizards on Wednesday, dropping their season opener 98-83 as Bradley Beal and Co. put a damper on Toronto’s first game at Scotiabank Arena since Feb. 28, 2020.

Nick Nurse’s squad struggled offensively, shooting only 30.9 percent from the field and 7-for-34 from three-point range. Only three Raptors scored in double digits, with Fred VanVleet and rookie Scottie Barnes leading the team with 12 points each.

Beal flexed his offensive muscle with a game-high 23 points, while Montrezl Harrell dominated the paint with 22 points and nine rebounds.

While the Raptors may not have gotten off to the start they wanted, the anticipation leading up to the game, the atmosphere in the arena and some memorable moments on the court made this one of the most special home openers in recent years.

Drake was temporarily in attendance for the Raptors' first game back in Toronto.  (Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images)
Drake was temporarily in attendance for the Raptors' first game back in Toronto. (Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images)

Pre-game festivities

The Raptors announced a 19,800 sellout for the season opener as fans showed up in droves to cheer on the 2019 NBA champions. As expected, global rap icon and Raptors superfan Drake was in the building, turning heads as he shuffled over to his courtside seat.

To get the sellout crowd hyped for the big game and the exciting season to come, an emotional poem, entitled We Back by Hannah Flores, was recited on the jumbotron.

VanVleet then grabbed the mic to address the crowd with a short speech as his teammates stood behind him.

“It’s good to be home, and I just want to thank you on behalf of my teammates and the Raptors organization; thank you for your support,” he said. “We’re all excited about this year, so let’s get it started off the right way; let’s get it.”

The floor was then handed to Toronto-born rapper Kardinal Offishall, who performed his hit song “The Anthem”, tweaking some of the lyrics in honour of the occasion and getting the party started.

The 2021-22 Raptors were then introduced to the crowd, with Toronto native Dalano Banton and star forward Pascal Siakam garnering the loudest cheers from the reserves and inactive players. The starting lineup followed, as VanVleet, Barnes, Goran Dragic, OG Anunoby and Precious Achiuwa were introduced to the fans.

Fitting start

Considered by many as the team’s leader, it was only fitting that VanVleet got the scoring started, launching a trademark looping three-point attempt that swooshed through the bucket.

Champagne Papi sparks technical foul

With Drake in the building, the Wizards were likely aware of the trash talk that would come their way courtesy of the star rapper. Harrell, despite his hot start to the contest, couldn’t help but get into it with the Raptors’ Global Ambassador and picked up a technical foul.

With his club getting blown out, Drake unfortunately vacated his seats at halftime.

Throwback from the rookie

To celebrate the NBA’s 75th anniversary, Barnes broke out an old-school post move to flash some of his offensive potential.

Local kid makes things interesting

After a timid first-half showing, Toronto went into the break down 57-37. The struggles continued into the third quarter until Banton, a second-round pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, was subbed in for the first minutes of his career. His impact on the game was virtually instant.

With the University of Nebraska product on the court for the final quarter, Toronto outscored Washington 24-17, with Banton contributing seven points, four rebounds, one assist and one steal. While his team’s comeback bid fell short, the 21-year-old made quite the impression on Raptors fans.

Canadian content

The fourth quarter brought another cool moment, when Banton, Chris Boucher and Khem Birch all featured on the floor at the same time, marking the first time in NBA history three Canadian teammates appeared on the court together. Interestingly enough, the same thing happened in Detroit, where Cory Joseph, Trey Lyles and Kelly Olynyk took the floor for the Pistons in their loss to the Chicago Bulls.

Despite the disappointing loss, Wednesday still turned out to be a big night for both the Raptors and Canadian basketball.

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