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Toronto coach, media play the calls card in playoff series with Nets

Toronto Raptors coach Dwane Casey and rapper Drake

Toronto Raptors coach Dwane Casey and rapper Drake react during the Raptors' loss to the Brooklyn Nets in Game 1 of an opening-round NBA playoff series. Credit: AP / Chris Young

Toronto is the largest TV market in Canada, but its ratings don't count south of the border, making the Raptors a low priority when it comes to scheduling games on ESPN and TNT.

That much is undeniable. But some fans, journalists and the Raptors themselves have extrapolated that into a concern that they are being treated unfairly by the officials in their playoff series against the Nets -- at least through one game.

As columnist Cathal Kelly bluntly put it on the front page of Tuesday's Globe and Mail sports section: "No one outside Canada wants them to win."

There is some truth to that, because a second-round matchup featuring the Nets and Heat has a far juicier ring to it than the alternative. But there is a big step from that to the conspiracy theories rampant across a nation.

(By the way, some of Canada's anger was stoked by TSN analyst Jack Armstrong, the former Niagara coach. He is from Brooklyn - and still sounds like it - and attended Fordham.)

Raptors coach Dwane Casey alluded to what he perceived as unfairness in the officiating after Game 1, then upon further review followed with this on an off day: "I'm not going to comment on the officiating, except to say I went back to look at the calls, and we didn't get any. That's unusual."

Kelly, the columnist, wrote this: "The refs aren't crooked, but they're human. They know how things work. They know what's good for the brand. If they can help without crossing an internal ethical line, history has proven they will."

Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce of the visiting Brooklyn squad sounded mostly bemused when asked about all this by a bi-national group of reporters at Tuesday's morning shootaround at Air Canada Centre.

"In the playoffs you're not going to get calls," said Garnett when asked if the Nets have a psychological edge with the Raptors complaining about the officiating. "If you do, you're fortunate. Playing on the road is very difficult. We know that. Some of us do. And that's just expected to come with the series.

"Things are not going to go the way you want them and you have to just continue to be aggressive. But that's the difference between experience and not experience."

Later, a Canadian reporter hesitantly asked Garnett a question that tried to tie his early career experiences playing with the small-market Timberwolves with the Raptors now being "disrespected."

"I think I understand what you're trying to say," Garnett said. "I don't really know how to answer your question, but I'll give it my best. We're on the road and this team, Toronto, has worked their way to have homecourt advantage and obviously they're expecting calls and things to be a certain way or what they're used to.

"This is a different season. This is not the regular season. But I get it. They're the home team. They're being aggressive. They're expecting calls, and it's going to go however the refs see it."

What did Pierce thing about the to-do over the refs?

"I'm not going to really get on the calls," he said. "I think we had a lot to do with everything that went on in the game. I thought we played well defensively. We were solid. We played without fouling. The refereeing is going to be what it is for both sides. We can say something about the refereeing on our side, but we're not going to get into that.

"We understand this is the playoffs. A lot of calls may not go your way. We understand that as veterans. You have to be able to play through it."

New York Sports