No satisfaction for Raps

Raptors coach Sam Mitchell says the next step for the club is to take the Atlantic Division title....

Raptors coach Sam Mitchell says the next step for the club is to take the Atlantic Division title. (Sun File/Fred Thornhill)

STEVE BUFFERY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:19 AM ET

Raptors coach Sam Mitchell put it best yesterday when asked why his team appeared so low key after clinching a playoff berth for the first time in five years.

The mood inside the team's practice facility at the Air Canada Centre yesterday was muted, despite the fact that a 107-94 victory over the Charlotte Bobcats on Sunday qualified the Raptors for the post-season.

"What do you want us to do, cartwheels?" Mitchell asked. "We have a lot of basketball to play. (The playoffs) are only the first step."

The next step, the coach emphasized, is taking the Atlantic Division title, which can be achieved by winning their two games in Florida coupled with a loss by the New Jersey Nets tomorrow.

After that, the goal of the 41-32 Raptors is to secure home-court advantage.

In any event, Mitchell is glad his club has something to play for because the last thing he wants is for his troops to become lethargic.

In fact, he scoffed at suggestions the Raptors, who were 27-55 last season, are not feeling any pressure to win the division, get home-court advantage or advance in the playoffs, because already they have exceeded most expectations.

"I would not like for us to feel that way," Mitchell said. "If you're in it, you want to try to win. I always think you play your best if you feel a little bit of pressure. There's always some pressure, and that's a good thing."

Although the Raptors have not been in the playoffs since 2002, most of the key players have tasted post-season action, including T.J. Ford and Rasho Nesterovic, who won a championship with the San Antonio Spurs in 2005.

Mitchell said he has "no idea" how players who have never appeared in the playoffs, such as all-star Chris Bosh and Anthony Parker, will react, but is confident they will play well.

"The only way to learn is by being there," Mitchell said.

Although he is the undisputed leader, Bosh said he will be all ears in terms of any playoff information forthcoming from Nesterovic or Morris Peterson, the only current player who played in the franchise's most recent post-season appearance.

"I do have to be humble and ask them for advice sometimes," Bosh said. "But when the (playoffs) start, we all have to play our roles. And when it comes down to it, in the fourth quarter, if the game is close, I'm going to have to make plays."

The Raps play back-to-back games in Florida starting tonight in Miami. They face the 76ers in Philadelphia on Friday before returning home to play host to the Chicago Bulls on Sunday.


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