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Raptors battle for spot in second round of playoffs

Tip-off 1pm Sunday at ACC

The Raptors host the  Nets Sunday in a game that will either vault them into the second round of the post-season for just the second time in the franchise's history, or have them clearing out their lockers.

Tip-off is at 1pm. Gates to the street party in Maple Leaf Square, just outside the Air Canada Centre open at 10 am.

Sunday's winner will face the two-time NBA defending champion Heat in the Eastern Conference semifinals beginning Tuesday in Miami.

To prepare his players for the biggest game of their lives, Raptors coach Dwane Casey borrowed from the 2011 NBA champion Dallas Mavericks.

"(Mavericks coach) Rick Carlisle has a thing, 'Wipe off the blackboard. Just wipe it off,'" said Casey, an assistant under Carlisle on that 2011 Mavs squad. "Nothing on the blackboard is really going to make a difference at this time of year. At this game, Game 7, it's mental."

By wiping the blackboard, Casey trusts the Raptors that have scraped and clawed to so many huge wins in this unexpected season of success won't go down without a fight. The coach likens his team to Freddie Krueger, the unkillable villain from "A Nightmare on Elm Street" movies and a name Casey has mentioned after virtually every unlikely victory this season.

"It's our approach," Casey said Saturday. "It's our toughness. It's our persistence on getting open. Our persistence in defending. Our persistence in going for loose balls, rebounds. That's what this game is going to be about."

In a series that has been feisty since before the first ball was even thrown up, Nets centre Andray Blatche fired the latest shot Saturday night.

"We guarantee we're going to go there and take care of business and go to Miami," Blatche told reporters at Barclays Center.

The Raptors shrugged off the comment.

"I don't care what he said," said Raptors all-star DeMar DeRozan. "He can say what he wants, honestly. He can go out there and say he's going to hit the lottery tomorrow, I could give a hell."

Raptors backup guard Greivis Vasquez added: "I don't know who does he think he is. He's not KG (Kevin Garnett) or Paul Pierce or Jason Kidd. We're not going to listen to his nonsense. He's gotta earn that, and he hasn't yet."

Vasquez said the Raptors are focused only on themselves, and with good reason. They could have closed out the series Friday night, but instead slogged out to their worst opening quarter of the series Saturday night, and trailed by as much as 26 points.

Once again, Casey showed his players video footage of the bouncing and cheering mass of fans that turned out to watch the game in Maple Leaf Square.

"This is what you're playing for," Casey told them.

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