At the Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Manila it was the Toronto Raptors point guard Cory Joseph putting his team on his shoulders (AGAIN) to win the opener 77-69 over Turkey.
The Canadian team features featured five NBA players including Joseph, Anthony Bennett (free agent), Tyler Ennis (Bucks), Tristan Thompson (Cavaliers) and Joel Anthony (Pistons), however, this game might have been lost if it wasn’t for the Scrubb brothers Philip and Thomas who play in Germany.
While Joseph led all scorers with 21 points and single-handedly stopped Turkey’s 8-0 run in the third quarter with four made shots in a row to reclaim a double-digit lead for Canada over the final 1:42 heading into the fourth quarter, the Scrubb brother combined for 19 very big points and 11 boards.
Except for a few minutes towards the end of the first quarter, Canada led this game wire-to-wire and it was the always reliable shooter Brady Heslip hitting the three-pointer with 28 seconds left in the first to reclaim the lead 18-16 that Canada never relinquished the rest of the way.
Thompson missed all of Canada’s pre-tournament warm-up games and looked a little rusty shooting 3-11 from the field for 10 points and 6 boards. He did get 3 assists and much more is expected from Thompson as he re-adjusts to FIBA basketball. Bennett scored just 4 points and grabbed 3 rebounds in 17 minutes and Ennis had 6 points, 3 rebounds and 2 assists. Joseph led all players with 5 assists and in minutes played at 34.8.
This wasn’t the first time Team Canada has leaned heavily on the 24-year-old Joseph to win an important international game. Joseph has played for the Senior Men’s National team since 2011 and he’s been it’s leader at the last two FIBA Americas Championships in 2013 and 2015.
Canada plays Senegal on Wednesday and a win guarantees they advance to the elimination round.