Raps go big in Gotham

MIKE KOREEN

, Last Updated: 1:15 PM ET

Raptors coach Sam Mitchell unveiled his fifth starting lineup of the season last night, re-inserting 7-footer Rasho Nesterovic for swingman Joey Graham.

The move was matchup-driven, as Mitchell went big to avoid having Chris Bosh guard 6-foot-11, 285-pound New York Knicks centre Eddy Curry.

"Last time I looked over there in that locker room, they've got a guy who weighs about 300 pounds, outweighs Chris (almost) twice as much," Mitchell said, stretching the weight difference a bit.

"So I just think it would be too much to ask Chris to do that for 38 minutes. That's what we got Rasho for, for nights like this. It wouldn't be very smart if we didn't use him."

Nesterovic started the first seven games of the season for the Raptors before his time was severely cut, even having a couple of DNPCDs (did not play, coach's decision) thrown his way.

But Nesterovic has played well since then and he provides solid but unspectacular interior defence.

Graham replaced Fred Jones in the starting lineup Friday night in a win over the Boston Celtics.

The emergence of Jorge Garbajosa as a capable defender of small forwards allows Mitchell to put the Spaniard on the court with Bosh and Nesterovic at the same time.

He can also go big by putting two of those guys with Andrea Bargnani.

"Garbo can play multiple positions, Chris can step outside and do some things and obviously with Andrea out there, he can shoot and stretch the defence a little bit," Mitchell said. "We can switch some things and it gives us some flexibility."

IN THE ZONE

The Raptors have had some success with zone defence recently and Mitchell thinks he knows why that is the case.

"I think everybody is playing zone because a bunch of people can't shoot," he said. "A lot of people play a zone. You don't have the Reggie Millers and Steve Kerrs and all those guys who can just stand out there and bury shots ... Most teams don't have a guy like a Kyle Korver or Quentin Richardson and if you do, you've just got one.

In the past, when I came in the league, three, four guys that were on the floor at the same time could really shoot the basketball and it was just hard to leave people open."


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