Toronto, Ont. — Canada’s men’s national basketball team kicked-off a seven game 2019 Pre-FIBA World Cup award tour with a 96-87 win over Nigeria.
Head Coach Nick Nurse was successful in his debut — guiding Canada to the victory despite only three practices and nearly reaching the century mark against the best current African basketball nation.
Montreal’s Khem Birch was a force to be reckoned with — scoring 14 of Canada’s 30 points in the paint to lead four Canadians in double digits. The Orlando Magic forward added 4 rebounds and 3 steals. Birch dominated a physical and athletic Nigerian team by shooting 6-for-8 from the floor while playing a team-high 24 minutes including several highlight dunks.
Kyle Witjer continued were he left-off in the FIBA qualification rounds with 14 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists on 4-of-9 three-pointers. Burlington, Ontario’s Brady Heslip also knocked 4-of-5 triples and finished with 12 points and 3 assists.
Canada knocked down 15-of-36 (41.7%) three-pointers and limited Nigeria to just 5-of-31 (16%) from downtown.
Melvin Ejim showcased his all-round game to the capacity crowd with 11 points and four rebounds in just 17 minutes.
Cory Joseph orchestrated the Canadian offense with game-high 9 assists to go along with 6 points and 6 rebounds.
Canada’s offense racked up 28 assists against a reasonable 14 turnovers.
Nigeria was led by Minnesota Timberwolves’ high-flying guard Josh Okogie with a game-high 18 points. Stanley Okoye added 16 points. Al-Farouq Aminu pulled a game-high 11 rebounds and 7 points.
Kelly Olynyk injury
From our view and angle – It did not look good, and Canadian fans should definitely brace themselves for no Olynyk moving forward. It appeared that Olynyk slipped on wet spot and landed awkwardly on his right knee. The Miami Heat forward and veteran Canadian player attempted to get back on his feet via some help from Nigerian forward Al-Farouq Aminu but immediately went down wincing in pain. Olynyk did manage to eventually get back-up and had brief conversation with Cory Joseph — but immediately went to the locker under his own power.
Jamal Murray + RJ Barrett courtside
Despite being unable to participate, both Jamal Murray and RJ Barrett sat courtside next to the Canadian bench. Both players were expected to play for Canada but unfortunately were forced to sit out due to nagging injuries.
Canada sweeps two-game series against New Zealand
Team Canada fought off a strong effort from the New Zealand Tall Blacks to sweep a two-game pre-FIBA World Cup Series with a 103-100 overtime victory.
Philip Scrubb scored a team-high 24 points, dished out 6 assists and pulled down 5 rebounds to once again lead six Canadians in double-figures. Kevin Pangos added 17 points and 9 assists. Oshae Brissett continued to produce with 12 points, 12 rebounds, 2 assists double-double before fouling out. Kyle Witjer 18 points, 5 rebounds. Thomas Scrubb 12 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists and Owen Klassen 10 points and 10 rebounds.
The Tall Blacks came out strong after being embarrassed by a 34-point loss to the Canadians in game one of the series leading 23-13 after the first-quarter. Canada was able to execute in the second-quarter ripping off a 12-2 run to get back in the game and trailed New Zealand 36-33 at half-time.
The Canadians broke-open a 48-48 tie mid-way through the third-quarter with an 8-0 run taking a 56-48 lead on two made free-trows by Thomas Scrubb and finished the quarter ahead 60-59.
Kevin Pangos drilled two three-pointers early in the fourh-quarter to push the Canadian lead to 71-61 with 7:24 to play in regulation. The Tall Blacks continued to play hard on the strength of Cory Webster who poured in a game-high 33 points, added 5 rebounds and 5 assists to force overtime at 81-81.
Kyle Wiltjer caught fire in the extra session scoring 11 of Canada’s 22 overtime points, knocking down two triples as the Team Canada hang-on for the the win a series sweep.
“We are just glad we got win, I thank all the fans who came out made the game fun, that’s what its all about.” thanked Witjer after the game.
“We have a very beautiful team, very unselfish so any given guy can step-up every night so it makes us tough to defend.” – continued Wiltjer about his performance after the game.
With Canada missing majority of their current NBA stars, Wiltjer a former second-round pick of the Houston Rockets is extremely proud to represent Canada once again “its a huge honor every time I play for Canada so I’m really honored to be on this team and Australia is beautiful country so thank you for having us”
Canada connected on 14-of-50 triples (28%) and struggled at the free-throw line shooting 17-of-26 (65%). Canada yanked-down 20 offensive rebounds on their way to a slim 58-55 advantage.
A night after losing Kaza Kajami-Keane to an ankle injury Team Canada lost yet another point guard as Andrew Nembhard picked-up a right knee injury early in the first-quarter and didn’t return.
Despite various incorrect reports, Canadian head coach Nick Nurse confirmed that point guard Cory Joseph will indeed be available for the 2019 FIBA World Cup.
Canada improves to 4-2, with victories over Nigeria, Australia and New Zealand (2x). Team Canada will take on the United States of America in their final exhibition game before the 2019 FIBA World Cup.
Canada simply too much New Zealand
Canada opened-up a two-game exhibition series against New Zealand firing on all-cylinders — blowing-out the Tall Blacks 122-88 in Sydney, Australia.
Aaron Best game-high 20 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals led a complete team effort that saw all Canadian players hit the scoresheet with six players in double-figures.
Andrew Nembhard continued his stellar exhibition play with 17 points, 4 assists, 3 rebounds and 2 steals including a game-high 27 minutes. Oshae Brissett added 16 points, 7 rebounds. Owen Klassen just missed out on a double-double with 12 points, 9 rebounds. Kevin Pangos returned to the starting line-up and registered 10 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists. Duane Notice got his first taste of action and rounded-out the top scorers with 10 points in just 13 minutes.
Philip Scrubb (8 points, 2 rebounds) drilled back-to-back-three-pointers as Canada scored the first 10 points of the game. New Zealand reeled-off 11-straight to take their only lead of the game at 13-12 — Canada wasted no time responding with a game-changing 20-0 run on barrage of three-pointers to run away with the game and 35-16 first-quarter lead on 7-of-14 triples in the first 10 minutes.
“It was a great team effort, guys were sharing the ball, we were getting up-and down and getting it after on defense, we stuck to the game plan and were able to come-out with the win.” discussed player of the game Aaron Best after shooting 4-for-8 from the three-point line.
The hot shooting continued in the second-quarter with Canada ringing-up another 26 points to take a 61-47 half-time lead. The Canadians shot 23-for-41 (56%) from the floor, drilling 9-of-20 three-pointers and out-rebounded the Tall Blacks 27-18 in the opening 20 minutes.
Team Canada outscored the Tall Blacks 31-26 in the third-quarter and closed out the game by hitting the century for the first-time in the exhibition series in 34 point win of New Zealand.
Canada splashed 43-of-78 (55%) field-goals, knocked down 16-of-36 (44%) three-pointers and pounded the Kiwis 53-33 on the glass.
Unfortunately the win came at a cost as Canadian guard Kaza Kajami-Keane (8 points, 2-of-2 three-pointers in 5 minutes) was helped to the locker room with what looked like a pretty bad ankle injury. Kajami Keane had been playing well — fighting for 12-men roster spot on a loaded Canadian back-court.
Tai Webster led the Tall Blacks with 19 points, 7 rebounds. Rob Loe and Isaac Fotu added 17 points each. Cory Webster chipped in with 13 points and 6 rebounds.
Tall Blacks split a pair of games (99-89 loss, 104-87) against Japan and will play France and Serbia in China to wrap-up their preparation schedule. New Zealand is in a extremely tough group F that features Greece, Brazil and Montenegro.
The two teams will go at it again tomorrow night as Canada (3-2) continues to prepare for the 2019 FIBA World Cup in China.
Nick Nurse opted to rest Kyle Witjer and was still without the services of starting point guard Cory Joseph and sharp-shooter Brady Heslip. Joseph is expected to join the team for Canada in China in time for the 2019 World Cup.
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