Team Canada win a game | Serge Ibaka is best dressed | Farmers also love the Raptors
The slow comeback shifted into a slow pull-away from there. Neither team could get much going offensively early in the third, with the game largely staying within one possession. Lamine Sambe helped Senegal hang in with a pair of big answers to Canadian scores, including an off-balance pump-fake-and-three at the end of the shot clock.
Enter the Joseph-Pangos pairing, which took over from there. Pangos came up with a steal that led to a Joseph jumper, Joseph pulled up for a three and then Pangos found Joseph for two more triples over three trips down the floor. The scoring shifted to Pangos, who scored seven straight and later took a steal coast-to-coast. All told, Pangos scored 12 points in the final 3:11 of the third and the guard pairing combined for 23 points in the quarter.
That put Canada ahead 13 entering the fourth, where point differential became the priority. That carries over to the classification round, which is important for Canada at this stage. It seems like an odd thing to harp on — point differential in what amount to games strictly for rankings purposes — but it’s where they find themselves after not advancing. They did their part, too, expanding the lead from 13 to 22 over the course of the fourth, leaving key players in a bit longer than you might expect in a normal blowout and receiving big threes from Andrew Nembhard and Kaza Keane late.
The win marks Canada’s first in the World Cup since 2002 (when it was the World Championship), which came in classification games. It’s their first win in a group stage of a major international tournament since the 2000 Olympics. It is a bar for progress that’s too low relative to Canada’s overall growth as a basketball country, but it at least feels like something positive that can cap an otherwise frustrating summer.
From here, Canada will look to do it twice more in classification and make sure they’re in good standing for Olympic Qualifying Tournaments next summer. At that point, the program gets to try this all again, starting with ways to better engage high-end talent with the program, which is something we’ll explore next week.
Cory Joseph deserves to be celebrated for always showing up for his country, no matter the circumstances. Yes, it looked for a time that Joseph would waiver in his commitment this summer with so many dropouts, but the 28-year-old ultimately suited up and he’s been the program’s best player.
Joseph was nothing short of sensational against Senegal, as he led all scorers with 24 points in 30 minutes. Joseph was steady throughout, but he came alive in the third quarter by knocking down three triples in short succession to break the game wide open. Thanks to his efforts, Canada was able to hit cruise control in the fourth.
Coming up on his ninth season, it’s clear that Joseph will be a career backup in the NBA. There’s no shame in that, as Joseph has never once missed the playoffs in his three stops through Toronto, San Antonio, and Indiana. But by playing in these international competitions, Joseph is able to showcase the full breadth of his game that his NBA role would otherwise limit.
Joseph did a bit of everything in this win. He got to the rack at will, but also showcased the perimeter game. Joseph’s crossover consistently creates space for his trusty midrange pull-up, and he was on such a roll from deep that Nick Nurse was drawing up plays for Joseph to come around pin-down screens to catch and shoot as a shooting guard would.
Another positive sign moving forward is that Joseph finally seemed to click with Kevin Pangos in the backcourt. Both players have contributed, but it’s been an awkward partnership at times with each guard trading turns in leading the offense. Joseph and Pangos looked to have finally found the right balance in the third quarter, as both players fed off each other to pick Senegal apart. Admittedly, these kinks could have been worked out earlier had Joseph appeared in the full exhibition slate, but that’s water under the bridge.
Stars show up vs. Senegal
As for the win over Senegal, Canada shook off a rough start – they trailed 22-11 after the first quarter – to slowly assert control and then dominate. Khem Birch continued his run of excellent play as he sparked a second-quarter run with some hard work on the offensive glass that led to second-chance baskets and trips to the foul line that got Canada going. Birch found Brady Heslip for a three that tied the game at 28 with 4:13 to play, and Kevin Pangos drilled another three a moment later to put Canada up and it never looked back. The Canadians led 33-32 at the half and then pulled away, powered by a 26-14 third quarter. After a sluggish outing against Lithuania, Cory Joseph was outstanding, leading all scorers with 24 points on 9-of-17 shooting while Pangos chipped in with 13 points, five rebounds and five assists along with two steals. Birch had six offensive rebounds, three blocks and three steals as Canada pulled down 21 offensive rebounds in total, a massive factor in the game. Canada’s three highest-profile players came to play and the results were evident.
Finishing on a high note
Winning is fun. There were a number of camera shots of Canada’s bench and it was interesting to see how lively it was. How many conversations were being had among players. Winning at this level takes talent, but it also takes connection and chemistry. As much as securing a spot in one of the play-in tournaments is a vital outcome for the remainder of its stay in China, finishing on a high note with stronger bonds and feelings for the experience of playing for Canada would be a great side-benefit. And winning – in any shape or form – is a vital ingredient in that elusive mixture.
“We leave here with some confidence off a win, and got a couple of games to play, and we gotta go play them,” coach Nick Nurse said.
The Canadians, who finished third (1-2) in Group H, now fly to Shanghai for two important classification games they hope will earn them an invitation to one of the second-chance Olympic qualifying tournaments next June.
“Obviously (Thursday’s win) keeps our Olympic qualifying tournament opportunities alive, and I think it just infuses us with a little bit of positive energy around,” said Ejim, whose son Miles was born on Sunday, hours before the team played Australia in their tournament opener.
“We’ve obviously been down those last two games, but every time you get a win and you realize that it’s not that bad, we have goals in front of us that are still attainable, I think tends to change the direction we were going in. This (win) is going to be big for us going into these next two games.”
Certainly, one of the Raptors’ roster issues is the ages of its players. Kyle Lowry is a 33-year-old and not getting any younger. He proved to be valuable to a contending team, but his body is losing the race with age. Another key part of the Raptors’ championship roster was Marc Gasol. The 34-year-old has a history of dealing with injuries. He had stretches during his time in Memphis when he was playing at an all-star level, but then he got injured shortly after. Marc Gasol’s defensive ability and prowess adds a lot to this Raptors and is not to be overlooked that he has a very high defensive IQ. Something that made him a terrific addition to the Raptors team is that he developed a somewhat consistent 3-point shot. If he can maintain that usefulness as he ages, then the Raptors will have made a great decision by extending his contract. Rounding out the veteran starting lineup are Serge Ibaka and Fred VanVleet. Ibaka is getting up there in age at 29-years-old but still has some left in the tank. Unfortunately, he has not been as much of a contributor to the team when it comes to scoring, but his defense is an important part of the Raptors’ arsenal. Fred VanVleet lit the basketball world on fire with his flashy 3-point shots during the NBA playoffs. He certainly has proved himself as a vital scorer to this Raptors’ team. His defense can be very good at times, and the fact that he is 25-years-old and already showing to be a good to great contributor is fantastic for the Raptors.
Part of the main issue that has been evident with the Raptors for the last five years, until when they acquired Leonard, is that they lacked the star power to succeed in the playoffs. They had the skill and talent to play very well during the regular season, but could not seem to replicate that. And with Leonard gone, will the Choke Raptors that Lebron-dominated team be back to where it was in the Eastern Conference? 2018 might have been the title year for the Raptors, but 2019 will tell us a lot about the future of this franchise.
Occupation: Toronto Raptors center/forward.
Home base: Toronto, Barcelona, NYC.
Happiest wearing: Custom suits during playoffs, “just walking into the arena with confidence.”
Style Icon: “My dad.”
Current obsession: Nick Fouquet chapeaux. “A nice hat can be very powerful.”
Trend I despise: Big logos “just to show you wear expensive clothes.”
Favorite designers: Valentino, Balmain.
The Toronto Raptors power forward had a very good year between all those opponent-crushing blocks and the whole championship thing. But it was his pre-game walks down the media tunnel at Scotiabank Arena that turned him into an off-court style sensation. Slick, custom-made suits, bold colour pairings and hats aplenty—cashmere beanies and leather ball caps, polished newsboys and one memorable cherry-blossom-pink fedora—earned him a Vogue stamp of approval and front-row seats at men’s fashion weeks all over Europe. He flitted from show to show in designer pieces, each better than the last: a knee-length lily-of-the-valley-printed coat at Valentino, an outsized Balmain poncho emblazoned with a desertscape awash in golden-hour tones, and a Thom Browne kilted skirt suit worn without a lick of irony or insecurity.
Hunter Brothers Farm is a family-run sweet corn and vegetable farm, located in Florenceville, New Brunswick, on the banks of the St. John River. The farm has actually been part of the area’s landscape since 1978, but the family have only been creating these incredible mazes in more recent years.
In a tweet on Thursday afternoon, the farm shared an incredible video of their latest corn maze, a huge tribute to the Toronto Raptors 2019 Championship win! In their original post, the Hunter Brothers Farm wrote, “We present to you, the 2019 NBA Champions, the TORONTO RAPTORS!!!” Adding the famous Raptors slogan, “#WeTheNorth.”
The farm’s incredible tribute to the 2019 NBA Champions features an image of the iconic Raptor dinosaur logo, with a full-court behind him and a basketball in-hand. If this was not the coolest thing ever already, the farm also managed to add the words “We The North” into the corn maze, making it one of the best Raptors tributes of all time!
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