Raptors Bring in New Year with Bounce Back Win Over the Clippers
As the Toronto Raptors brought in a new year inside of an empty Scotiabank Arena, nothing felt weird anymore.
Taking a look back, it has truly been a year unlike any other for the Raptors.
It was a year that started in Tampa Bay at the Amalie Arena where the Raptors were forced to play their home games. The Raptors made their triumphant return to Canada at the start of the new NBA season and now, with the rapid spread of the new Omicron variant, the Ontario Government has forced the Raptors to only operate at 50-percent attendance. As the Raptors took on the Los Angeles Clippers on New Year’s Eve, the arena was empty.
“It was more normal than not, to be honest with you,” said Raptors guard Fred VanVleet. “I didn’t even think about it until we were just talking about in the locker room … I don’t know the numbers but I would say we probably played just as much if not more ‘fan-less’ basketball than we have packed stadiums, so it is what it is. I’m gonna make excuses or, you know, dwell on the challenges and adversity that we’re facing. We’ll try to get as many wins as we can in this building. Fans or no fans, we got to go out there and play basketball and do the best we can.”
Despite the lack of “home court advantage”, the Raptors finished off 2021 with a victory against the undermanned Clippers by a score of 116-108. Moreover, the Raptors continued to bring back key pieces from COVID-19 protocol, as Fred VanVleet, OG Anunoby, and Scottie Barnes all cleared protocol prior to game-time. Barnes, would still miss last night’s game as he nurses an injury, but he is expected to be back in the fold sooner rather than later.
“It’s good to have most of your weapons,” said VanVleet. “Pascal was getting an advantage, [Anunoby] got hot there in the second half. And once we got into the bonus, I just liked the matchup they had on the block. They were switching and worst-case scenarios those guys were going to the line [or] making the right plays out. I was definitely tired so it was a good thing those guys were able to step up and make some plays, so I still had some juice for those last couple of buckets in the fourth quarter.”
With the usual faces back, the Raptors had a different feel to them as Fred VanVleet returned to score a game-high 31 points, while Pascal Siakam had a huge 25 point, 19 rebound and seven assist night. OG Anunoby scored 26 points in his return from COVID protocol.
The Raptors will look to build off this win and start 2022 with a win!