Raps probably have to go small

MIKE GANTER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:53 AM ET

These are buckle-down times for the Raptors.

Already without Chris Bosh -- who is expected to miss his third consecutive game with a groin injury tonight when the Charlotte Bobcats visit the Air Canada Centre -- the Raps are not planning on having Andrea Bargnani available.

Bargnani, who was playing with a bruised right knee in Saturday's loss in Washington, landed awkwardly on his left leg when his dunk attempt was blocked by Andray Blatche midway through the first half.

Bargnani initially left the game before returning with soft braces on both knees. He was in sweats at yesterday's practice but did not participate.

The team is calling the injury a hyper-extended knee and was sending him out to visit with team doctors yesterday afternoon.

On top of those injuries, coach Sam Mitchell said T.J. Ford's participation tonight was up in the air. Ford has played sparingly in two games since returning form a stinger he suffered five games ago in Dallas.

"It depends how he feels," Mitchell said.

Ford appeared to be feeling pretty good at yesterday's post-practice tutorial with Juan Dixon and Joey Graham.

Ford sounded more like coach than point guard as he encouraged, goaded and harassed his two teammates in some entertaining one-on-one action after most of the rest of the team had called it a day.

"I play with pain," Ford said before adding that his bandaged thumb was throbbing when he woke up yesterday. Despite his coach's worries, Ford said he expects to be in the lineup tonight.

Even if Ford plays, Mitchell is looking at a roster that is missing two big pieces of its core group (Bosh and Bargnani) and the third (Ford) will be playing at a fraction of what he does when he is healthy.

"This is not easy," Mitchell said. "We have to figure out a way to hang in there and give yourself opportunities to win until you get your top players back. So far we are 1-1 and we were in the game (Saturday) night on a back-to-back."

What it means for the Raps tonight is they will be undersized.

Sure, Mitchell still will have Rasho Nesterovic, Maceo Baston and Kris Humphries to call on for size, but the likelihood is that he will go with a small lineup for much of the game, similar to the one he had on the floor for crunch time Saturday when he went with Carlos Delfino, Anthony Parker, Jason Kapono, Jamario Moon and Jose Calderon to finish.

Mitchell was not prepared to divulge his starting lineup.

The good news for the Raps is they are going up against a team which has also been going small, partly because of injury, partly by choice.

Backup centre Ryan Hollins is not expected to play tonight for Charlotte. He is recuperating from a run-in with Orlando's Dwight Howard. Starter Primoz Brezec has not scored in four of his past six games and is being used sparingly.

Coach Sam Vincent tried to go with a small lineup for much of Saturday's loss in Chicago. The Cats shot better, but were out-rebounded 48-24 in a loss.


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