The Toronto Raptors begin their title defence on Monday, Aug. 17 as they take on the Brooklyn Nets in Game 1 of the first round of the 2020 NBA Playoffs.
SERIES PREVIEW: Raptors vs. Nets
Of course this year, things are much different, as the series will be played exclusively at Disney's Wide World of Sports, meaning the Raptors, owners of the second-best record in the NBA, won't have the advantage of opening the postseason in front of nearly 20,000 fans at Scotiabank Arena.
Similar to the seeding games, the Raptors will have home court advantage with respect to the game featuring virtual fans decked out in Raptors gear, a group that could potentially include the friends and family of some players and staff.
While that is a small bonus for finishing second in the East for the second straight season, head coach Nick Nurse told reporters on Saturday that there's nothing quite like opening the postseason in Toronto: "I just had a big thought of not doing this in front of fans because, as you know… Man, that first game when the Raptors go to the playoffs and you walk into that arena, the fans get up, and it's really something for us to be a part of and we'll miss that for sure."
Although the Raptors dropped Game 1 of the opening round to the Orlando Magic in 2019, the game had an official attendance of 19,937 and the advantage of the fans at Scotiabank Arena is undeniable. Dating back to the beginning of the 2018-19 season, Toronto has posted a 64-22 (.744) record in front of its home fans, including a 9-4 record in the 2019 playoffs.
On Sunday, All-Star Kyle Lowry echoed Nurse's sentiment, praising Raptors fans for their impact: "We just miss the fans in general. Our fans in Toronto are the best fans in the NBA, I truly believe that. So that alone will be missed, Jurassic Park, and all that. The atmosphere around the city, the buzz around the city. It's definitely going to be missed."
"We just miss the fans in general. Our fans in Toronto are the best fans in the NBA."- Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) August 16, 2020
Kyle Lowry on missing the atmosphere in Toronto as the @NBA playoffs begin. pic.twitter.com/sayq94XVKZ
Lowry, who is set to embark upon his seventh postseason as a member of the Raptors, has seen - and done - it all during his time in Toronto. One of the best parts of 2019's title run was the outpouring of support throughout the country, resulting in a number of outdoor "Jurassic Park" watch parties for Raptors fans.
MORE: All you need to know about MLSE's drive-in watch parties
While the coronavirus pandemic has made things look a bit different, MLSE, Live Nation and OLG have teamed up to present the OLG Play Stage, which will be a drive-in Jurassic Park of some sorts, uniting Raptors fans in a safe, socially distanced manner.
Raptors fans! Don't miss your chance to join the drive-in viewing party for Games 1-4 at OLG Play Stage! Tickets are available now.- Scotiabank Arena (@ScotiabankArena) August 14, 2020
More info + tickets here: https://t.co/QMvvrGEDyf pic.twitter.com/ybX5Xg6NdA
It might not be in person, but the Raptors are sure to feel the presence of their faithful fan base as they pursue a second NBA title. Game 1 of the opening round series between the Raptors and Nets takes place on Monday, Aug. 17 at 4:30 p.m. on Sportsnet ONE.
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