Raptors on Brink of Elimination

Two blowout losses in New Jersey that have the Toronto Raptors on the brink of elimination mean coach Sam Mitchell is likely to make some changes to his lineup.

Just don't expect him to reveal what he has in store when Toronto plays the Nets in Game 5 of their first-round playoff series at home Tuesday.

Oddsmakers have made Toronto -4 point spread favorites (NBA Odds) for todays game, the over/under has been set at 190 total points (Matchup). Our public betting information shows that 84% of bets for this game have been placed on New Jersey +4 (View NBA Bet Percentages).

``None of your business,'' Mitchell said when asked what he was plotting after Monday's practice. ``When they introduce that starting lineup, then you'll know.''

No matter who starts, the Raptors aren't likely to stay alive without better production from All-Star forward Chris Bosh, who scored just 24 points combined in Games 3 and 4, both double-digit losses.

``Hopefully the changes we make will give us a little more space,'' Mitchell said. ``We've got to open the court up, spread the court and attack the gaps.

``We don't have one-on-one basketball players,'' Mitchell explained. ``That's why it's so important that we've got to move the basketball. We have to rely on picks, ball movement, hard cuts and spreading the floor.''

Bosh said Toronto's confidence hasn't waned after a woeful weekend in New Jersey.

``We're at a point now where we just have to go play, and whatever happens, happens,'' Bosh said. ``We have a winning mind-frame, we have to stay alive and we know that the only way we're going to do that is stay relaxed and play the basketball that we know how to play.

``Nobody is ready to go home,'' Bosh said. ``We have to come out, win a game, gain some confidence and try to get 6 and 7.''

The Nets have dominated the past two games, but aren't getting ahead of themselves.

``This will be the hardest game of the series because they're going to let everything out,'' coach Lawrence Frank said. ``We have to stay in the moment. We can't think of anything else.

``Toronto had a chance to win both games at home and we were fortunate to get one on their court. We won both games on our court. Now, we're going to try to get one.''

In the six years that Kidd has played for New Jersey, the Nets are 8-1 in games that could clinch a series. Their only loss was a Game 4 defeat to Indiana in the first round of the 2002 playoffs.

Richard Jefferson, who's averaging 21 points per game in the series, expects a tough test in Toronto on Tuesday.

``Our job is not even close to being done,'' Jefferson said. ``We are going into a very hostile environment. One of the hardest things to do is closing out a team on its home court.''

Nets guard Jason Kidd posted a triple-double in Friday's Game 3 win and almost duplicated the feat in Game 4 on Sunday, falling two rebounds short. On Monday, Kidd was named to the NBA's All-Defensive second team.

``It's just another great accomplishment in what is a Hall of Fame career,'' Frank said. ``He's 34 years old and he's playing at a higher level now than he's ever played before. His impact on the defensive end is unbelievable. Jason is the number one reason for our success. Since he's been here, we've added some banners to the walls and a whole bunch of wins. He sets the tone for the entire game.''

Fast starts by New Jersey and big games from Kidd, Jefferson and former Raptor Vince Carter have buried Toronto early the past two games.

``Jason Kidd, Richard Jefferson, Vince Carter, they've outplayed us,'' Mitchell said. ``You've got to give credit where credit is due. Jason Kidd, he and Vince, the last two games, have just taken it to us.''

Carter struggled with his shooting in Games 1 and 2 and was booed every time he touched the ball.

``You're entitled to have bad games, and my goal is not to have a bad game,'' Carter said. ``If I make plays for my team everything else will come.''

Toronto point guard T.J. Ford, who is suffering from flu-like symptoms, didn't practice Monday.

``He's tired, he hasn't been able to eat,'' Mitchell said. ``We just sent him home.''

By: Marc Young - theSpread.com - Email Us

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