Raptors Understand Adversity

The Raptors understand adversity all too well.

They started the season 2-8 and survived. They lost forward Chris Bosh to a knee injury and survived.

So they see no cause for alarm after losing Game 1 of their playoff series with the New Jersey Nets.

Oddsmakers have made Toronto -5.5 point spread favorites (NBA Odds) for todays game, the over/under has been set at 193.5 total points (View NBA Sports Books). Our public betting information shows that 54% of bets for this game have been placed on New Jersey +5.5 (View NBA Bet Percentages).

``When we take a step back we always take two or three steps forward,'' Bosh said Monday, leading to Game 2 Tuesday night. ``We pick up our intensity in the next game, we don't make the same mistakes we did before. We're a fast-learning team, and in Game 2 we're going to need that.''

The players credit their resolve to Sam Mitchell, who will learn Tuesday whether he's been honored as NBA coach of the year. Utah's Jerry Sloan and Dallas' Avery Johnson also are in the running.

``He's done a great job with the ball club,'' forward Morris Peterson said. ``He's really grown a lot over his first couple of years coaching. If anybody in the NBA deserves it, it's him. He's proved a lot of people wrong.''

Like Bosh, Peterson said Mitchell's leadership has helped Toronto become a team that can bounce back.

``Our coaching staff has done a great job this year in making adjustments after we've had tough losses,'' Peterson said. ``One of the biggest things is that we've been ready to play after a loss.''

Guard T.J. Ford said Mitchell puts his faith in the players.

``He's going to give us the structure offensively and defensively, but it's up to us to go out there execute,'' he said. ``He puts it in our hands and lets us control it. He's been great in that aspect.''

Bosh said Mitchell is ``constantly teaching the game.''

``He always pulls guys to the side to tell them what they have to do or where they need to be and he gets on guys when they don't take open shots or don't play their game,'' Bosh said.

Mitchell, who is reluctant to talk about possible coaching honors, knows how to keep basketball in perspective.

``I don't have an aunt or an uncle,'' he said. ``I never met my grandparents. My brother died at 24. So I've been through a lot tougher things in life. I've learned I can't go home and worry, cry and complain.''

With the nervous energy of the 96-91 loss in Game 1 behind, Mitchell wants his Raptors to attack more.

``We need to be aggressive within our offense with ball movement,'' he said. ``We need to run the break and run the lanes better, be more aggressive that way.''

New Jersey will try to counter by changing its defense.

``Toronto is one of the best offensive teams in the league and a great jump shooting team,'' Nets coach Lawrence Frank said. ``We have to continue to give them different looks defensively during the course of the game. A team like that can get in a great rhythm and they've put up some great numbers against us in the past.''

New Jersey will hope for another big night from Richard Jefferson, who scored 28 points in Game 1.

``He brings out the best in all of us,'' Vince Carter said. ``He was aggressive and a step quicker than he has been. He's a great player and when he gets out in the open, he gets everyone going. His confidence is really soaring right now.''

Frank called Jefferson ``instrumental to our success.''

``We're a better team with Richard,'' Frank said. ``His game is attacking the rim and finishing and he's improved his perimeter jumper. But his strength and power is getting to the rim.''

A big edge in fast-break points helped the Nets withstand a fourth-quarter rally. Ford said the Raptors won't let that happen again.

``We've really got to stop the transition baskets,'' he said. ``If we prevent those little bitty things that we didn't do in the first game, I think we're going to be fine.''

By: Marc Young - theSpread.com - Email Us

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