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Toronto Raptors

What happened the first time the Toronto Raptors played on Christmas Day?

vince-carter-081019-ftr-getty.jpg
Vince Carter (NBA Getty Images)

On Monday, it was officially revealed that the Toronto Raptors will host the Boston Celtics on Christmas Day in the 2019-20 season.

It's a momentous occasion for the franchise, as the Raptors have only ever played on Christmas once before, the first time coming almost two decades ago, back when Vince Carter's career was just getting started.

On Dec. 25, 2001, the Knicks hosted the Raptors at Madison Square Garden for one of only two Christmas Day games on the NBA calendar that season. The Knicks entered the game on a four-game home losing streak while the Raptors were riding a three-game winning streak.

It was the Knicks, however, that ended up winning the game, fueled by a strong start that saw them outscore the Raptors 30-15 in the opening quarter.

Raptors vs. Knicks line score (Dec. 25, 2001)
1 2 3 4 Total
TOR 15 27 22 30 94
NYK 30 24 18 30 102

Allan Houston came up big for the Knicks with a game-high 34 points and Mark Jackson flirted with a triple-double, finishing with 13 points, 11 assists and nine rebounds. For the Raptors, Morris Peterson led the way with 22 points, followed by 18 points from Alvin Williams.

The problem for the Raptors? Their leading scorer struggled. Latrell Sprewell helped the Knicks limit Carter to two points in the first half. He finished with 15 points, which was almost 10 less than he averaged on the season.

"Every time I drove to the basket there was a man there," Carter said. "They did play defense tremendously and with high intensity. We didn't match it."

The Raptors ended up having a better season than the Knicks, finishing with 42 wins compared to 30 for New York. It was enough for the Raptors to make the playoffs, although they ended up losing to the Detroit Pistons in five games in the first round.

Adding to the intrigue of Toronto's second Christmas Day game is that it's against a Boston team that, like them, is expected to finish near the top of the Eastern Conference standings next season. So not only is it the franchise's second Christmas Day game - the first on their homecourt - it's a potential playoff preview, headlined by two All-Star point guards in Kyle Lowry and Kemba Walker, as well as potential first-time All-Stars in Pascal Siakam, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.

The combination should make for one of the day's better games.

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