A BIG difference

MIKE GANTER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:07 AM ET

The most recent time the Raptors faced the Houston Rockets, they had to deal with Tracy McGrady's scoring abilities and the strong defence anchored by Shane Battier and Dikembo Mutombo. What they didn't have to deal with was the enormous presence of Yao Ming. Yao missed 32 games with a small fracture in his right anterior medial tibial plateau. During his absence, the Rockets somehow managed to put together a 20-12 record.

The Raptors managed to pin one of those 12 losses on the Rockets in their big man's absence, but they know they are going to have their hands full with Yao back in the lineup for tonight's game at the Air Canada Centre.

"We'll just have to do some of the things we did last night (against the Knicks and Eddy Curry)," coach Sam Mitchell said. "We're going to have to give help and try and make it difficult for him."

Chris Bosh admits more attention is going to have to be paid to the 7-foot-6 behemoth, but warns it can't come at the cost of ignoring others.

"It's going to be tough, obviously," Bosh said. "We're going to have to send a lot of guys at Yao, but we can't forget about T-Mac, either."

In the Raps' 106-90 win at Houston on Feb. 28, McGrady was held to 22 points while Andrea Bargnani led all Toronto scorers with 20.

Yao has been back in the lineup for six games since his injury and it's no coincidence the Rockets have won four of those six games.

More time for Dixon

While Juan Dixon was hustling out of practice yesterday to see Maryland play it's first-round game in the NCAA tournament, his expanded role was being discussed with Mitchell.

Dixon has been averaging 27.3 minutes a game in the Raptors' seven games in March and could be looking at another big chunk of playing time tonight if Anthony Parker is not able to go after spraining his ankle again on Wednesday

Mitchell says he has no hesitation turning to Dixon.

"Juan has been great," Mitchell said. "I have no complaints with him. On both ends of the court, he has been great. His defence has been good. He can handle the ball and make plays for himself and his teammates. It's really added a new dimension to what we have."


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