The future of Canada Basketball kicked off this past week, with a warm-up tournament in Puerto Rico leading up to the FIBA Americas next week. Canada capped off an impressive showing by finishing 4-0 after defeating Puerto Rico in their toughest challenge of the tournament. It was surreal seeing so many remarkable, memorable stories we've been reading about individually come together and finally represent the country.
Along with Kelly Olynyk, Cory Joseph's been the longest serving member of the national team of the NBA group, if you will. Having been a part of this squad since 2011, Joseph's the leader on and off the court for Canada at the young age of 24. Fortunately for him, sticking through the dark period of Canada Basketball is finally starting to pay off as he has a pretty impressive supporting cast sharing the burden with him. This was his chance to finally earn some silverware for Canada.
The final game of the tune-up tournament was about as tense as exhibition games can get. In front of a raucous hometown crowd in San Juan, the Puerto Ricans came into this game matching Canada's 3-0 record. Jay Triano shortened the bench for this game, suggesting the energy and emotions of the game had percolated all the way down to the coaching staff.
Offensively, Canada struggled to create offence with Anthony Bennett, Nik Stauskas, Brady Heslip and Joseph struggling with their shots. Joseph notably sometimes had to force the issue, which played a big part in him having six urnovers. His jumpshot was also not falling for him and resulted in him going 3-11 on the night. He did show a nice knack for splitting double teams off the pick and roll and had a beautiful and-1 off a split to end the first half at 38-31 with Canada in the lead.
The back and forth battle continued in the second half, with Andrew Nicholson, Andrew Wiggins and Melvin Ejim powering the Canadian scoring output. Defensively, Joseph was the only Canada guard that did a solid job of defending JJ Barea. As soon as Joseph hit went to the bench, Barea routinely shredded through Stauskas and Phil Scrubb to cut Canada's lead to 59-57 after three quarters. Canada kept Puerto Rico at an arm's length for the entirety of the 4th quarter and eventually closed this one out 78-72.
View full boxscore here:
Joseph had 9 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 steals. Again, the less he's required to score, the better. He's a terrific role-player in this setting, and it showed in every game this tournament. Just for kicks, Wiggins had this absolutely massive jam in the 4th quarter:
So Canada goes into the FIBA Americas tourney in Mexico City with some great experience and a spotless 4-0 record. Now, the real games begin.
Wiggins: "It was a great game... I think this was the turning point for us, to let us know that we're ready for the tournament"— Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) August 27, 2015
What did you guys think of the game?