Mitchell the last to know

STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:39 AM ET

Raptors head coach Sam Mitchell was unaware that Shaquille O'Neal was not going to play in last night's game until informed by the media about an hour before game-time.

Upon hearing that news, Mitchell refused to submit his starting lineup for the perusal of Miami head coach Pat Riley. Only after being handed the Miami starting lineup did he do so, inserting Pape Sow as the the starting centre.

O'Neal pulled out of the game because of the sore knee allegedly suffered during the morning shootaround.

There was a feeling in Raptorland, however, that the Heat staff just wanted to rest him with big games coming up later this week against Cleveland and New Jersey, figuring that they could defeat the Chris Boshless Raptors without O'Neal -- while sitting a comfortable six wins ahead of New Jersey for second in the Eastern Conference.

FUN WITH SAM

Mitchell was asked before last night's game what he planned to do about the fact that Miami scored 72 points in the paint the last time the teams met, a 101-94 Heat victory on Feb.27 in Miami.

"Try to hold them to 71," he deadpanned.

AROUND THE RIM

Raptors assistant coach Alex English, a former NBA superstar, is thinking about playing in a couple of exhibition games in the Philippines April 27 against the Philippines Basketball Association all-star team and May 1 against that country's national team. Former NBA stars Dennis Rodman, Kevin Willis and Darryl Dawkins are also expected to take part ... Toronto native Jamaal Magloire, the starting centre for the Milwaukee Bucks, will be holding his annual basketball camp in Toronto this summer ... Oakville native Mike Vanderjagt, recently signed kicker with the Dallas Cowboys, was courtside with his son Michael last night ... Last night's sell-out was the third of the season for the Raptors and tomorrow night's game against Canadian Steve Nash and the Phoenix Suns is also sold out.


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