Shaq? Big deal!

DEAN McNULTY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:56 AM ET

Raptors coach Sam Mitchell is not about to allow his team to play Little Red Riding Hood to Shaquille O'Neal's Big Bad Wolf.

And Mitchell was quick to chastise anyone who would suggest that scenario going into the game against the Shaq-led Miami Heat at the Air Canada Centre tomorrow night.

"What do you want me to say?" Mitchell said. "That I'll tell all our players to stay home and hide just because Shaq is in town?"

No, but the coach has to be aware that the 7-foot-1, 340-pound O'Neal brings with him a season average 23.1 points and 10.8 rebounds a game.

His physical presence makes him the centre of attention no matter where he is on the court.

"You can't be afraid of anybody," Mitchell said. "We've beaten this team before on its home court.

"You just have to go out and forget who you are playing against."

Mitchell, however, is not about to dismiss the impact the Big Fella can have on a basketball game.

"Shaq is a great player," Mitchell said. "But he puts his shoes on like everybody else."

Mitchell said he will expect his two starting big men -- Chris Bosh and Rafael Araujo -- to work as hard against O'Neal as they did against Emeka Okafor of the Charlotte Bobcats on Sunday.

The prized rookie was kept to just eight points and 11 rebounds in a 103-92 Raptors win.

"We are not going to change our lineup or anything," Mitchell said. "We are just going to have a good practice (today) and work on our game plan because (Miami) has weaknesses like all teams."

WEAKNESSES

Those weaknesses, however, are few and far between as the Heat clearly is the class of the NBA Eastern Conference with a record of 30-13.

It will be a true test for the 18-24 Raptors to keep their five-game winning streak at the ACC intact, but Mitchell said his squad has been building confidence in its recent homestand.

"I think our guys have a lot of confidence and I think that's a good thing," Mitchell said. "We understand Miami has been a good team but we've been a good team at home so we are looking forward to this challenge."

The coach said that as long as his players go out and work hard they will give themselves a chance to win.

"I learned a long time ago that you win because you play better and you go out and out work the other team," Mitchell said.

He added that people should not forget the Raptors have beaten some pretty good teams at home this season.

"We have beaten some good teams here," he said. "News flash, we beat San Antonio (96-91) on this court."


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