While Canada cruised to an 85-64 victory in their FIBA Americas tournament opener against Jamaica Friday, they will not get much time to celebrate.
That’s because on Saturday afternoon they will be facing a very tough Puerto Rican squad who pulled off the first upset of the tournament on Friday by beating Brazil 72-65.
Canadian head coach Jay Triano is well aware that his club will be stepping up a level in competition when his team faces Puerto Rico.
“Tomorrow’s going to be a bigger challenge,” he said Friday.
The two sides met a week ago on Puerto Rican soil in the Tuto Marchand Cup with the host side coming out with a 78-71 victory.
The Canadians had trouble containing Puerto Rican point guard J.J. Barea of the Dallas Mavericks who lit them up for 29 points while also dishing out eight assists.
Puerto Rico went on to win the tournament title as Barea shared MVP honours with teammate Carlos Arroyo, who once played for the Toronto Raptors but now plies his trade in Turkey with Galatasaray.
Triano said on Thursday that he was wary of the veteran Puerto Ricans ability to be effective either off the dribble or executing the pick and roll.
The job of containing Barea will likely fall to Canadian point guard Cory Joseph. The San Antonio Spurs star only played 18 minutes in that first meeting but was on the floor for 36 minutes in Friday’s win over Jamaica.
The Pickering Ont. native was Canada’s most effective player in the victory as he nearly pulled off a triple double. Joseph finished with 17 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds.
Triano will need to play him more minutes Saturday than in the initial encounter but is going to need to find a way to get him some rest as the Canadians will have to play at least eight games over a 10-day period.
“We can’t play Cory this many minutes going forward,” Triano said.
While Canada’s other NBA stars are very athletic, they are going to have to be very active to contain former NBA first-round pick Renaldo Balkman.
He will lead the frontcourt attack for Puerto Rico and Cleveland Cavaliers forward Tristan Thompson, Orlando Magic forward Andrew Nicholson and Miami Heat centre Joel Anthony are going to need to keep a body on him at all times.