Pressure? Try playing in Europe

RYAN WOLSTAT -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:06 AM ET

Just because the Raptors are short on NBA playoff experience -- at least compared to the New Jersey Nets -- doesn't mean they are complete neophytes when it comes to high-pressure basketball games.

In fact, according to head coach Sam Mitchell and guard Anthony Parker, the New Jersey faithful will have a hard time making the Continental Airlines Arena seem anywhere near as hostile as some of Europe's more frenzied buildings.

"I was in the playoffs many times and I've never played in an NBA game like I've played in Europe, where there are crazy people coming out of the stands when you're on the road," said Mitchell, who toiled in France before entering the NBA.

Parker, a two-time Euroleague MVP with Israel's Maccabi Tel Aviv, was involved in plenty of big games while his team was capturing back-to-back Euroleague championships and performed in many tough venues.

Parker chuckled yesterday when recalling a particular trip to Greece.

"We went on the road against Panathinaikos. That was probably the most volatile," Parker said. "They will throw things at you, spit on you, all kinds of stuff."

Despite his youth, rookie Andrea Bargnani has also played in important contests in Europe -- the biggest of which, he said, occurred last year when Benetton Treviso, his Italian League champions, took on Panathinaikos in Athens, with a spot in the Euroleague Final Four on the line.

Though Benetton fell 81-70, Bargnani thinks that experience will serve him well in the NBA playoffs.

"I take something from everything I've learned during my career," he said.

"It's going to be more intense and the defence will be more tough. The smart team makes the difference."

Backup point guard Jose Calderon, who helped lead Spain to the world championship last summer, agreed with his teammates.

"Now, every mistake you make, you pay for," Calderon said. "You have to be ready more than ever for all 48 minutes."

Centre Rasho Nesterovic leads the Raptors in NBA playoff experience with 56 career games played, 26 of them starts. Veteran guard Darrick Martin has played 23 games (six starts), while Morris Peterson (13 games, eight starts), Juan Dixon (10, 0) and T.J. Ford (5, 5), have also taken part.

Injured Jorge Garbjosa also had extensive post-season experience in Europe.


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