Raps play through

MIKE KOREEN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:06 AM ET

If a team out of the playoff hunt, Raptors coach Sam Mitchell does not expect its players to roll over and play dead. After all, there are reasons for teams like the bottom-feeding Atlanta Hawks, the Raptors' opponents last night at the Air Canada Centre, to play hard.

"If you're a rookie, you're playing to hopefully be a starter next year and to get better," Mitchell said. "If you're a guy on a one-year contract, you're playing for much more than the playoffs can ever be. You're playing for a job next year ... If you're going to be out of a job next year, playoffs don't mean much. It's more important you have a team willing to sign you to a one-year or two-year deal. All those guys are just playing for their livelihood."

NOT EXACTLY PUMPED

It's not only fans who have trouble getting jacked up for a visit from a bad team.

"It's tough," Raptors point guard Rafer Alston said.

Alston always drinks coffee before games. Perhaps he had a couple of extra cups last night.

"You have to find a way to get mentally prepared to play or you can lose a game that you shouldn't lose," Alston said. "Not just your team, but every other team is watching you. They're looking at the schedule and seeing who you're playing and they count this as a win for your team.

"You've got to go out there and play very hard, play like it's a playoff game or a game that's meaningful which, it is to us. It may not be to them, but you've got to go out there with a killer instinct. You don't want to beat the team (that loses) because they're going to remember the team they beat and the fact they beat that team on the road. You don't want to be the team that goes down on the wrong side of history."

RED ROCKET APPEARANCE

Raptors forward Matt Bonner will be signing autographs today (2-4 p.m.) at the Best Buy at the Scarborough Town Centre. The Red Rocket has averaged 15.0 points, 5.7 rebounds and shot .708 from the field the past three games before last night.


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