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Crucial week ahead for Raptors

The significance of this week is not lost on the Raptors, who continueto try to climb out of a deep, dark hole they created for themselves ina brutal first half of the NBA season.

The significance of this week is not lost on the Raptors, who continue to try to climb out of a deep, dark hole they created for themselves in a brutal first half of the NBA season.

And for all the one-game-at-a-time, it’s-the-process-not-the-results philosophy they espouse, they are admitting that games tonight in New Jersey and Friday at home to Milwaukee carry a little extra juice.

“It was the first thing we addressed today,” coach Jay Triano said after yesterday’s practice. “Where we are, where they are and what this week means to us.”

Where the Raptors are is 18-28 and in 13th place in the 15-team Eastern Conference. But as bad as that record is — and it’s quite bad with only eight teams in the entire league worse off than Toronto — it’s not as if the season is all the way in the toilet.

The Nets occupy ninth place with a 20-25 record and the Bucks, who have lost leading scorer Michael Redd for the season with a knee injury, are in eighth with a paltry 20-25 record. The 19-25 Knicks, 18-26 Charlotte Bobcats and 18-27 Chicago Bulls began play last night also between the Raptors and the final playoff berth.

Beating the Nets often comes down to stopping the high-scoring duo of Vince Carter and Devin Harris, both of whom average 21 points per game.

“We’re talking about two guys who could potentially be on the all-star team,” said Triano. “We have to stop their drives, stop their open looks and, hopefully, they don’t get it rolling because both of those guys have hurt us this year when they’ve got on a roll.”

Adding to the significance of tonight’s game is Toronto’s need for a win to split a four-game season series with the Nets.

It’s not too early to start thinking about tiebreakers — at least not in Triano’s mind — and a New Jersey win gives the Nets a leg up on Toronto.

“(The game is) very significant.”

 
 
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