Talking a good game

STEVE BUFFERY

, Last Updated: 7:13 AM ET

The verbal give-and-take inside the Raptors interview room prior to last night's game was almost as intense as the action on the court.

Raptors coach Sam Mitchell went on the offensive when he was asked for his opinion on the decision by Detroit Pistons coach Flip Saunders to not give his starting players a lot of minutes against the Raptors at the Air Canada Centre last night, or on Tuesday back in Detroit. Mitchell took exception to the suggestion that the Pistons, who have clinched first overall in the Eastern Conference, would be an easier opponent to beat with Saunders giving his top players, such as Rasheed Wallace and Tayshaun Prince, limited minutes.

"They have the luxury to do that," Mitchell said. "They've clinched what they feel is important for them to clinch. That's fine. God bless them. But that doesn't change the fact that we need to win a basketball game. It doesn't matter who's on the court. That's how you get beat.

"How many games have we won this season because people probably looked on the court and didn't see T.J. Ford and didn't see Chris Bosh and before you knew it, we're up 10 and it's too late to win the basketball game? So my message to my players is, it doesn't matter. And I wish you guys wouldn't go in there and relay these messages from other teams to them. They need to stay focused and win a basketball game.

"Flip Saunders is doing what is best for the Detroit Pistons. My job is to what's best for the Toronto Raptors. If Flip wants to go and play himself, let him play. But we're going to try to win the basketball game because we're trying to secure the third spot so we can have home-court advantage in the first round."

Mitchell said bench players, especially on good teams like the Pistons, tend to be dangerous.

"I keep trying to get you guys to understand. Those guys are playing for a job next year. What's more important than that?" Mitchell said. "Playing for how you're going to pay your bills, to take care of your family? If this is the last year of my contract and Flip is going to play me (an undetermined) number of minutes and I haven't been playing much this year, you think I'm thinking about resting for the playoffs, or trying to impress the organization?

"Those guys on the floor are going to play hard. They're trying to get in the rotation, they're playing for contracts."

Mitchell said he knows more than most how dangerous bench players can be when they get a chance to play, because that largely was his role as an NBA player for 13 years.

AROUND THE RIM

Jorge Garbajosa, who dislocated his left ankle joint on March 26 and was forced to undergo season-ending surgery, joined his teammates on the bench last night.


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