Head coach Jay Triano had been spreading the minutes out early on at the FIBA Americas, but in a sloppy game against Venezuela, he turned to the stabilizing influence of Toronto Raptors new point guard Cory Joseph. The 82-62 final score belies the fact Canada let their opponent get back to within 11 points in the fourth quarter after being up over 20 in a game Canada should have won in similar fashion to the 40-point blowout of Cuba.
Joseph had a strong game, filling the stats sheet and setting the pace for his teammates. Joseph scored 10 points, grabbed 7 rebounds, dished 5 dimes, and picked up a steal and blocked 2 shots in 29.5 minutes of action. Following his lead, Canada outscored Venezuela on the fastbreak 32-11 and in the paint 44-20. Joseph told Basketball Canada he was just trying to be aggressive.
“I was trying to be aggressive, getting to paint and making decisions. I was able to find Kelly a lot early and couple of times to [Anthony Bennett]. I think we did better today, especially on the defensive end. I thought our defence started a lot for our offence,” said Cory Joseph.
However, this was a game Canada refused to turn into a blowout. After opening up a 10-point first quarter lead, Canada started the second quarter in a fog, quickly turning the ball over twice and allowing Venezuela to go on a 5-0 run before Dwight Powell was knocked down with an intentional foul by Colmenares. Powell left the game with an apparent left arm injury. The incident sparked a 6-0 response by Canada, but it didn’t stop the tactic by Venezuela as they racked up three intentional (flagrant) fouls in the first half.
Maybe it was the physical play, but in this game Canada turned the ball over 22 times on 14 steals by Venezuela who turned them into 20 points. It was the only reason Venezuela was ever even remotely in this contest.
Canada dominated this game on the glass 52-33. Shot 51 percent from the field and assisted on 24 of their 30 made field goals. Obviously, several Canadians stood out.
Kelly Olynyk was the tallest player on the court and Venezuela couldn’t stop him inside. It begged the question, why didn’t Canada keep going to him? Olynyk had 14 points, 8 rebounds and 6 assists, but those 5 turnovers were something he’s got to correct as this tournament moves along and answers the preceding question.
Andrews Wiggins also filled the stats sheet with 13 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, a steal and 2 blocks, but he failed to look after the ball as well, turning it over 5 times.
Anthony Bennett posted a solid double-double of 10 points and 10 boards as he was the recipient of a few nice big-to-big passes from Olynyk. Nik Stauskas seems to found his comfort zone in FIBA basketball as he scored a team-high 16 points in 29.3 minutes and hit on 4-5 three-point attempts.
In their last two games Canada has been able to push the pace and play the style of offense Triano wants to see. It’s fast exciting and takes advantage of this team’s talent and youth. Now if they can just find the maturity to look after the ball, they’ll be unstoppable.
Canada (2-1) plays Puerto Rico (1-2) on Friday at 7 pm ET in their final game of the preliminary round.