Net a Raptor

With injuries to their point guards and a postseason road hex working against them, the Toronto Raptors are willing to do almost anything against the New Jersey Nets, including turning to superstition.

It's all part of the Raptors' new single-minded postseason strategy - just find a way to stay alive in Friday night's Game 6 in New Jersey and get the Eastern Conference first-round series back to Toronto for a deciding Game 7 on Sunday.

Oddsmakers have made New Jersey -7 point spread favorites (NBA Odds) for todays game, the over/under has been set at 188 total points (Matchup). Our public betting information shows that 71% of bets for this game have been placed on New Jersey -7 (View NBA Bet Percentages).

Despite winning Game 5 on Tuesday night, the odds clearly are stacked against Toronto, especially with starting point guard T.J. Ford (neck, arm and shoulder pain) and backup Jose Calderon (ankle) both uncertain for the game.

Neither has practiced the last two days. Calderon did some shooting on Thursday, while Ford appeared to be in less pain from his collision with Nets guard Vince Carter on Tuesday.

``We've got some contingencies,'' Raptors coach Sam Mitchell said after the team's practice in Toronto. ``We're not going to be out there with our pants completely down. We've got some things that we're going to do if neither one of them can play.''

If they can't play, the options are Darrick Martin and Juan Dixon, who have combined for 17 points in the playoffs in limited action. Ford and Calderon have combined for 141 points, or an average of 28.2 points.

``Whoever is healthy, that's who's going to play,'' Mitchell said. ``There's no use worrying about it. If they can, they'll play. If they can't, we'll go on and move forward.''

The Raptors did little right in New Jersey in losing Games 3 and 4 last Friday and Sunday.

The Nets never trailed and led by as many as 21 points in posting a 102-89 win in Game 3, which was highlighted by Jason Kidd's triple-double and 37 points by Carter.

Game 4 was worse. Toronto trailed by as many as 33 in the 102-81 loss, the Raptors' eighth straight playoff road loss dating to May 6, 2001.

In an effort to end the hex, the Raptors decided not to stay at the same hotel in New Jersey on Thursday night. They're moving back to Manhattan, where they stayed in the regular season for games against the Nets and Knicks.

Even that may not help: during the regular season, the Raptors lost both games they played in New Jersey.

``I'm not superstitious or anything,'' Raptors All-Star forward Chris Bosh said. ``Maybe it will, maybe it won't. I'm sure we'll see after tomorrow.''

After getting a day off, the Nets returned to practice Thursday.

``We're very confident,'' forward Richard Jefferson said. ``We feel we have only played two bad quarters, the fourth quarter of Game 2 and the first quarter of Game 5. You take those quarters out of the equation, we have played pretty good basketball. We're not stressing this too much.''

Nets coach Lawrence Frank and his staff spent much of the past two days pointing out the mistakes from Game 5, a contest that ended with Bostjan Nachbar missing what would have been a series-clinching 3-pointer.

``It's the first to four and we're just refocusing ourselves,'' Carter said. ``We gave ourselves a shot to win Game 5. We feel confident if we play a better first half, we'll get the job done, hopefully.''

Frank intends to remind the Nets that the Raptors overcame injuries in winning the Atlantic Division title. He also pointed out that Martin did an outstanding job in the playoffs for Minnesota in 2004, filling in for an injured Sam Cassell.

``Anyone who puts on an NBA uniform is very capable,'' Frank said. ``It's not so much about the individuals, it's our goal to keep our eyes on the prize, and you don't let anything or anyone get in the way of achieving what you want to get done.''

Bosh said that the Raptors have no doubts they can win.

``It's about being prepared on defense, being prepared to have a lot of intensity, pick them up full court and just get off to a good start,'' he said.

And if that doesn't work, maybe the hotel switch will help.

By: Marc Young - theSpread.com - Email Us

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