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Will Canada’s semi-final win provide momentum needed to upset France & advance to Rio?

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With an extra off day under their belts prior to facing a tough-minded New Zealand squad, Canada had more gas left in the tank in the game’s final minutes to secure a hard fought 78-72 win that was closer than the final score indicated.

New Zealand jumped out to an early 15-11 lead thanks to a 8-0 first quarter run, but with Canada dictating the pace for the most part they were able to regroup and lead most of the way.

Cory Joseph had a lot to do with that preferred pace as he started hitting 4 of his first 5 shots en route to a game-high 23 points.

A hot start from three was not a sign of things to come though for Canada, like in their game against Senegal they struggled mightily hitting just 1-of-15 after the first quarter. In the final three quarters of the last two games, they have shot a dreadful 1-of-26.

Coach Triano noted that their confidence was down from long distance and they made an adjustment to attack the rim more, but he knows that they “eventually have to make shots” to enjoy sustained success.

Tristan Thompson led the way inside as expected with 13 points on only 5 shots along with 10 rebounds including 5 on the offensive end. He was given great support though from Melvin Ejim’s 13 and 7 along with 2 blocks as well as Khem Birch’s 4 offensive rebounds in just 11 minutes. The coaching staff’s confidence in that pair off the bench was evident as well, as they both played critical roles late after being rewarded with the opportunity. Making it even more impressive was that the Kiwis were forced to go small late, having lost a second big man who fouled out.

New Zealand’s Webster brothers were a key reason they were able to tie the game going into halftime, combining for 24 of New Zealand’s 42 points. The point guard Tai then came away with 4 offensive rebounds after halftime, but his older brother could not match his energy late.  This included a key air ball and turnover in the game’s final few minutes, after earlier taking only their second half lead at 66-64 with about 6 minutes remaining in the game. Coach Triano reflected afterwards about how he settled his team down following that key point, leading to their 14-6 game ending run:

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“I told them to breathe just to relax, we got caught up a little bit and they hit a three which hurts us. At the end of the game our execution, spreading the floor and being able to use our athleticism was our strength.” In another similarity to their struggles from three over the last games, they shot just 56 percent on 25 free throws down from 61 percent against Senegal.

Without marked improvement from three and the charity stripe, it’s hard to see how Canada will knock off a France team that is determined to get Tony Parker to Rio in his last tour of duty with the national team.

However, aside from Tristan Thompson’s history of difficulties from the line (excluding this game where he was 5-of-7), there is definitely an expectation that an improvement in those categories should eventually come.

A big X factor will be Brady Heslip, who has shot only 1-of-12 the last two games including 0-of-8 from long distance. Making those stats even harder to stomach is his lack of contributions in other areas, with only 2 assists and at times being exposed on the defensive end as well in about 40 minutes of action over the last two games.

France had Nic Batum in the lineup for the first time in their semi-final victory and looked sharper as a result even though his contribution was limited. They enjoyed a comfortable lead throughout most of the 2nd half, allowing them to rest Parker and Batum for the latter stages of the game.

The advantage at point guard that Canada has enjoyed throughout the tournament will be negated against France not just because of Parker, but also former Raptor Nando De Colo and Turkish league star Thomas Heurtel as well. Canada and France will face off for the right to go to Rio Sunday at 9am EST on TSN.

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FIBA

Canada draws tough group for 2020 FIBA Olympic Qualifier

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canada draws tough group for 2020 fiba olympic qualifier
Khem Birch and Team Canada to face stiff competition at FIBAOQT - Photo: FIBA

Canada’s Senior Men’s National Basketball (SMNT) faces a tough road to the 2020 Olympic tournament after drawing stiff competition at the official qualifying draw in Switzerland.

No. 21 Canada will play in tough group A in Victoria, British Columbia against No. 7 ranked Greece and reigning NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo. Team Canada will also face rising No. 24 China. Group B features No. 43 Uruguay, No. 10 Czech Republic, No. 15 Turkey.

Canada will need to win the last minute Olympic qualifying tournament at home to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympic games.

The top two teams in each group advance to the semi-finals in a crossover game. The tournament runs from July 23-28. The top four teams from each tournament will advance to Tokyo and will join an already impressive field that includes hosts Japan, Argentina, Australia, France, Spain, Iran, Nigeria and the United States.

2020 fiba olympic qualifying tournaments
2020 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament

The Czech Republic finished in sixth-place at the recently completed 32-team World Cup in China with a record of 4-4 — with losses coming to the USA 88-67, Greece (84-77), Australia (82-70) and Serbia (90-81). Greece missed out on a top 10 finish after a disappointing 3-2 showing. Turkey showed flashes of brilliance finishing a spot below Canada at 22 with a 2-3 record — losing a close 93-92 group game against the USA.

China also finished with a 2-3 record dropping close games to Poland (79-76), Venezuela (72-59) and Nigeria 86-73. Uruguay, the lowest ranked team of the six is the only team that didn’t qualify for the World Cup.

greece giannis antetokounmpo 2019 fiba world cup basketball
Hellas’ Giannis Antetokounmpo is coming to Canada for the 2020 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament – Photo: FIBA

The six teams coming to Victoria this summer all feature proven NBA star-power, headlined by the Hellas’ Giannis Antekonmpo. The Czech Republic has crafty Chicago Bulls point guard Tomas Satoranksy and Turkey also boasts power forward Ersan Ilyasova of the Milwaukee Bucks, point guard Ceidi Osman of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Furkan Korkmaz of the Philadelphia 76ers.

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Despite the growing global NBA player presence – it is Canada that features the most international players in the world’s best league. After a disappointing 2-3 showing at the 2019 FIBA World Cup, Team Canada is expected to put together it’s best roster in years’ — already garnering early official social media commitments from two of Canada’s rising stars. Denver Nuggets’ Jamal Murray and OKC Thunder Shai Gilgeous-Alexander have officially announced their intentions. Dillon Brooks of the Memphis Grizzlies, Khem Birch of the Orlando Magic and New Orleans Pelicans’ guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker have also made it clearly evident that they will be on hand to help Canada end it’s 20-year summer Olympics drought that dates back to 2000.

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Canada will kick-off the tournament against Greece on June 23rd and will play China the next day with a rest day in-between — before the semi-finals on June 27.

2020 fiba olympic qualifying tournament competition format
2020 FIBA Victoria Olympic qualifying tournament competition format

One thing to keep in consideration is the proximity of the qualifying tournament to the NBA Finals. Game 1 on the 2020 NBA Finals is set for Thursday June 4th 2020 and if stretched the distance it will run until Sunday June 21st leaving only two days before the start of the crucial tournament. Both the Milwaukee Bucks and the Toronto Raptors are amongst the favorites to win the Eastern Conference and should they reach the NBA finals it will be interesting to see how it will affect player turnout and other last minute decisions.

Canada’s coaching staff is led by Raptors’ head coach Nick Nurse, Greece recently appointed former Kentucky Wildcats head coach Rick Pitino.

Canada failed to reach the 2016 Rio Olympics via the FIBA qualification tournament, falling to eventual fourth-place finisher France in a hard-fought 83-74 battle in Manila, Philippines.

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FIBA

Lance Stephenson Makin’ ‘Em Dance In China

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lance stephenson makes em dance in china
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Remade in China.

From playing with LeBron and the Lakers last season. To getting an early start in the Far East for this one. Getting in opponents faces like he used to do when he went up against the King. Blow in his face all you want…but its just hot air.

Lance Stephenson is back baby!

Like you’ve never seen him before. Running his town in China for the Liaoning Flying Leopards.

To quote Charlie Murphy talking about Prince in an infamous Hollywood stories episode of Dave’s ‘Chappelle Show’, “this cat can (still) ball man”!

GOOD!

To those who think a couple of strings have popped off Stephenson’s guitar then just watch him play and strum along. Lance is still makin’ ’em dance with the NBA’s most famous celebration…except the league just lost it and one of their premier performers and fondly favourite, cult celebrities in the amazing association of epic entertainment.

Turns out the Lakers should have held on to their veteran big name meme team a little longer. Although they did re-up with pure point Rondo running the show and the centre who should start in JaVale McGee. But in not keeping one of their biggest bench presence spark plugs of camaraderie and chemistry since the days of Rony Turiaf or even Mad Dog, Mark Madsen, this is almost as heart-breaking as losing all the kids in the Hollywood divorce for Anthony Davis. But we love reunions almost as much as we love redemption in this league and with BIG3 MVP Joe Johnson inking a deal with Detroit that is going to see the Motor City Pistons assembly line cut former Laker Michael Beasley. We may just see this fellow wild card, big contributing star head back to the Chinese league he finished out the season with like he hasn’t just flown home already. We know one Leopard who would welcome him with back open paws and any other player with a name beyond a meme, not caring if he never changes his spots.

Just when you thought Ice Cube’s inspired BIG3 was the only prescribed route for former NBA players to EA get back in the game like museum exits via the gift shop then check out this exhibit. You only have to check a FIBA feed and see how France French kissed the United States out said tournament a year before the 2020 Tokyo Olympics in Japan to see that this game is truly global. It’s far more than just the United States. It’s the whole wide, watching and welcoming world. And one of the biggest hubs like everything in this world from business, to commerce and innovation is in China. Now that’s some development even the G-League can’t give you old man.

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Coney Island’s own legend Stephon Marbury became an icon here, remaining after he retired…and this guy was a superstar under the Times Square, World’s Most Famous Arena lights of being a New York Knick in the Madison Square Garden of hallowed hoops Eden.

Are you listening Carmelo?

You too Dwight…give it a couple of months.

With 35 and 10, double decadence in the playoffs, Lance just put an end to San Miguel like last orders at the bar and now next rounds on him as he mime guitars until the fat lady falsettos in her stilettos to everyone raising a glass in toast.

Cheers!

The all dunking and big shot scoring player looks like he’s stepped into a rejuvenation machine…until you see just how much he afforded with his spare chance minutes last year on the biggest stage in Hollywood. He looks like he’s having a Swayze. And Chinese Basketball in turn the time of its life.

All Stephenson needed was another chance. And boy is he taking it right now. At this point Lance will be back in the league before you can say “it’s opening night at the STAPLES Center.” But at this point would he even want back, causing big trouble in a not so little China?

(As a matter of fact after press Lance Stephenson lead his Leopards over Seoul to win both the Terrific 12 and the tournament MVP…like Jay what more can we say?)

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