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Mark your calendars: Five underrated Raptors games to see live

Toronto Raptors v Orlando Magic
Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images

Wanna see the Raptors in person? We recommend targeting these very attainable (and under-the-radar entertaining) games!

Picture this.

It’s 9:59 a.m. Single-game tickets for the Toronto Raptors are about to be released in one minute. Your laptop, mobile device, and work laptop are all fully charged and each on Ticketmaster, ready to make a purchase.

After anxiously hitting the refresh button several times... BOOM! Tickets are now available! You frantically scroll down to “February 3, 2022 — Toronto Raptors vs Miami Heat @ Scotiabank Arena”. You click on “See Tickets” on all 3 devices in rhythmic harmony.

The laptop is first to load. No tickets available. Your heart sinks deeper as you see a similar message on your other devices. “How could this be??” Before you start throwing things in frustration, you quickly search your other earmarked marquee games: Bucks, Clippers, Lakers.

Nope. Nada. LOL.

Every empty trip loads quicker than the previous attempt as if Ticketmaster is saying, “are you kidding me?”

It’s 10:07 AM. All that’s left are over-priced resale and standing-room-only tickets.

Let’s face it. Toronto is a basketball city that’s been starving for their Raptors for over 19 months. Even if Scotiabank Arena welcomes fans at full attendance (as long as you’re fully vaccinated), tickets are going to disappear quicker than ever before. If you’re like me and just want to attend a game — preferably an entertaining one — then let’s try to maximize those precious seconds and target some games that are off most people’s radars.

Some quick notes before diving in. I avoided teams that made the playoffs last season since they’ll be on every fan’s ticket wish list, in varying degrees. I also avoided any games in October because, regardless of the opponent, fans just want to be in the building as soon as humanly (and humanely) as possible. Each game gets an “availability” rating between 1 and 10, where 1 essentially references the Heat scenario above, and 10 means it should be readily available.

In chronological order, let’s look at the games you should consider targeting to watch live!

Thursday, December 16 vs Chicago Bulls

It’s funny and ironic that Lonzo Ball signed with the Bulls because Arturas Karnisovas has essentially built Pelicans East in Chicago — an entertaining, high-powered offense that offers very little on defense. But who cares about defense when you have possibly the greatest collection of dunkers in a single lineup.

DeMar DeRozan, Zach Lavine, Derrick Jones Jr. Imagine the three of them are running a fast break with the ball in Lonzo’s hands while Nikola Vucevic trails and spreads the floor.

The addition of Alex Caruso to a youthful and exciting bench led by Coby White and Patrick Williams further cements this team as must-see TV (or live in person, of course).

Oh, did I forget to mention a couple more familiar faces in Matt Thomas and Stanley Johnson are also on the squad?

Likelihood of availability: 5

Of all the teams listed here, the Bulls should be the hardest one to purchase. However, I’ve purposely chosen this game, as opposed to their first meeting on October 25th; that’s Toronto’s third home game of the season. Put aside the DeRozan factor, every single game in the first 10 days — the Raptors open the season with 5 of 6 at home — will sell out because the demand is sky-high to be one of the first few fans to watch live basketball at Scotiabank Arena again. Meanwhile, the Dec. 16 game falls on a weeknight in the middle of Christmas shopping and Office Christmas party season. This is probably the one I’d recommend the most.

Monday, December 20 vs Orlando Magic

If there’s one benefit of seeing the Magic live it would be the lack of broadcasters constantly comparing the merits of Jalen Suggs and Scottie Barnes. Thankfully, Barnes has been nothing but a breath of fresh air since being drafted. His infectious personality and genuine excitement to be in Toronto have made most Raptors fans forget about Suggs. (Let’s hope the broadcasters do too!)

When these teams last met on February 2, 2021, the game was cemented in Raptors lore as Aron Baynes was a season-best +25 Fred VanVleet dropped a franchise-record 54 points. His special night also set NBA records for most points and threes for an undrafted player and became the only 50-point scorer in NBA history to hit triple digits in true shooting (100.1% to be exact).

While you should not expect another Herculean performance from FVV against the Magic — Orlando did keep him to 15 points total over the other two meetings last season — it’s not like Orlando has any “Fred stoppers” in the lineup.

Likelihood of availability: 10

Similar to the Bulls game, this is the second meeting between these teams, with the first matchup occurring within the first two weeks of the season. This also falls on a weeknight and is much closer to Christmas — opening up the possibility that Christmas-related priorities will likely keep tickets more readily available. The difference in “availability rating” simply boils down to: Who’s itching to watch the Orlando Magic?

Tuesday, January 25 vs Charlotte Hornets

This game falls right around that sweet spot where All-Star selections are being made (with All-Star calibre players making their respective cases) AND the trade deadline is looming large. With TNT showcasing marquee games on Tuesdays (NBA on TNT), in addition to Thursdays (Inside the NBA), this could possibly be the day when All-Star starters are announced — and supposed snubs try to prove the doubters wrong.

It’s not too much of a stretch to see LaMelo Ball enter the All-Star conversation. He has the eye-pleasing game to entice fans and if he leads Charlotte to a surprising start, Ball should have the stats and team record to lure coaches and media votes. Whether or not he’s an All-Star, Ball is a human highlight reel, as is his high-flying running mate, Miles Bridges.

For the nostalgic folks, the last time Charlotte came to town was also the last game played at Scotiabank Arena before the pandemic. *insert crying emoji*

Likelihood of availability: 7

The availability rating falls between the Chicago and Orlando ratings because, on one hand, this is a fringe playoff team and nothing more. On the other hand, it’s their only regular-season visit to Toronto, and Ball’s popularity may be higher than I assume. As things currently stand, Charlotte hasn’t made enough of a jump to warrant hand-over-fist demand for tickets. For those that can get tickets, you’re in for a good show. Remember that Charlotte’s one of the few teams that matched up well with Toronto’s small-ball lineup.

Wednesday, March 30 vs Minnesota Timberwolves

Hot take: Karl-Anthony Towns will request a trade this season.

Complete transparency: I wrote that sentence BEFORE the Gersson Rosas news broke and KAT’s subsequent reaction.

For every loyal Giannis Antetokounmpo who sticks with the franchise that drafted him, there’s an Anthony Davis who can only stick around for so long before yearning for greener pastures. I actually thought that time would’ve dawned on KAT last season. Since entering the league, it’s been misstep after misstep within the Minnesota organization when trying to build a contender around their superstar.

If he ultimately stays after the trade deadline, a Timberwolves roster with KAT, Anthony Edwards, Malik Beasley, D’angelo Russell, the return of Ricky Rubio, and Patrick “I’ve never missed a playoffs” Beverley should be more than entertaining. Oh, and Yuta Watanabe is definitely embarrassing Edwards at some point in the game.

If KAT does get traded, is there a team with a player that can match his contract and provides Minnesota the necessary value in youth, skill, and experience? I’ll stop writing now.

Likelihood of availability: 9

This one should be very much available. The 2021-22 season is shaping up as another trip to the lottery for this moribund franchise. As good a player as Towns is, he doesn’t quite scream “must-see” basketball superstar—yet. Okay, I’ll shut up already.

Friday, April 8 vs Houston Rockets

The final home game of the season is always guaranteed to be a good time. I used to work for the Raptors’ Fan Patrol. All season long, we’d give out t-shirts, thundersticks, flags, and all kinds of swag in exchange for cheers and crowd noise. Unfortunately, the Raptors weren’t a playoff team when I was an employee (bad luck charm?), so the final home game was a time to “empty the prize closet.” No longer rationing for the next game, we had (relatively) open reign to give away anything and everything. That reason alone makes the regular-season finale a must-attend.

Fortunately for you, ticket hunter, this game offers more than just memorabilia that will collect dust a week later. The Rockets come to town with a surprisingly fun roster. Assuming John Wall’s wishes are met and he’s no longer with the team, Houston can still trot out Christian Wood, Kevin Porter Jr., Jae’Sean Tate, and Jalen Green.

With Houston looking like it’s headed to the lottery again, this matchup could offer a glimpse into the future with Alperen Sengun, Usman Garuba, Daishen Nix, and/or Josh Christopher.

Likelihood of availability: 7

If a Wall trade occurs before tickets go on sale and Houston nabs a big name like Ben Simmons, then availability (or lack of it) changes accordingly. For now, this game should be on your list as an attainable ticket with plenty of prizes — on the court and off — to reward your clever ticket purchasing strategy.

BONUS: Friday, January 14 @ Detroit Pistons

Raptors fans infiltrating Detroit and taking over Little Caesars Arena: A tradition like no other! Assuming border restrictions are lifted by the new year and more folks have been vaccinated, I’d expect nothing less than another rowdy Canadian fanbase showing Cade Cunningham what could have been.

Barnes’ former AAU teammate is the reason for all the hype. Fans will surely try to get their hands on tickets for November 13, when Dwane Casey’s squad makes their first trip to Scotiabank Arena. While others fight for those tickets, why not just cross the border, buy cheaper tickets, and sit closer to the floor?

Likelihood of availability: 10

Tickets are already available......plenty of them!

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