Canada pulled off the earliest shocker in the Manila Olympic Qualifying Tournament at the expense of European powerhouse Turkey on Tuesday night and team skipper Cory Joseph proved to be one of the biggest reasons why.
The 6-foot-3 Joseph showcased his NBA pedigree throughout as the 26th-ranked Canadians turned back the 5th-ranked Turks 77-69 to claim the early lead in Group A of the Rio de Janeiro Olympics qualifying event at the Mall of Asia Arena.
A one-time NBA champion with the San Antonio Spurs in 2014, Joseph sizzled with a game-high 21 points, 11 of them coming in their third quarter onslaught where they led by as many as 16 markers, before his Canadian teammates put on the finishing touches in methodical fashion.
“I thought Cory was outstanding,” beamed Canada coach Jay Triano of the current Toronto Raptors backup guard, who also had a game-best 5 assists and 3 rebounds in nearly 35 minutes of efficient play.
“His feel for the game, the ability to use the pick and roll is very good. He got his teammates involved,” added Triano, 57, during the post-match press conference. “He joined us a little late but he played extremely well (tonight).”
Aside from his impressive offensive showing, Joseph also made his presence felt defensively, putting the clamps down on Turkey’s starting guard Ali Muhammed who struggled all game long, missing all of his 8 attempts from the field and finishing with just a solitary point.
“I kinda use my length against him and tried to force him to take tough shots,” said Joseph of the 5-foot-10 Muhammed, known for his explosive offense. “We know he’s good and he can knock down some big shots.”
Joseph was also pleased with the way they were able to utlitize their quickness and inside presence to the hilt.
“We did a pretty good job (tonight). We tried to get out and run,” he said, referring to their 11 markers off transition attacks. — By Jerome Lagunzad