While the atmosphere has been rather subdued for Canada’s games at the FIBA Americas Tournament in Caracas to this point, that will all change on Friday when they take on the host country, Venezuela.
Having been involved in the Canadian program for several decades, the setting won’t be unfamiliar to Canada coach Jay Triano, who has encouraged his charges to soak in the atmosphere.
“I told the players this is one of these basketball experiences they will never forget,” Triano told reporters.
It is expected to be a raucous crowd in support of the host nation and while it may be intimidating, the team needs to be prepared to deal with the intensity.
Programming note: Watch Canada take on Venezuela at the FIBA Americas tournament live on Sportsnet 360 at 5:15 p.m. ET. | Full TV Schedule
The Canadians will need to maintain their focus against a Venezuelan squad that will turn up the pressure a notch.
San Antonio Spurs point guard Cory Joseph has been the star for Canada throughout the tournament and he will need to continue to be sharp against Venezuela.
In Thursday’s win over Mexico, he had to deal with extra pressure as the opposition double-teamed him all over the floor when the ball was in his hands.
Joseph will once again have to be cautious with the ball vs. Venezuela as they will likely employ a full-court press for part, if not all, of the game.
The Venezuelans will look to get out and run off of Canadian turnovers and missed shots to try and take advantage of their quickness.
Part of the reason the Venezuelans employ this style of play is because they lack size. They will play with only one big which will create matchup issues on both ends of the floor.
Former Atlanta Hawk Donta Smith is the top scorer for the Venezuelans. The veteran guard is the top scorer but they feature a very balanced offensive attack.
Orlando Magic forward Andrew Nicholson will need to stay out of foul trouble, something he has had trouble with all tournament, to allow the Canadians to really take advantage of their size advantage.
He has the quickness to stay with a smaller player on his own end of the floor while still having the ability to take advantage of the matchup on the other end of the floor.
If Nicholson continues to pick up fouls at a high rate, Triano could insert Miami Heat centre Joel Anthony alongside Cleveland Cavaliers forward/centre Tristan Thompson. The two had not shared the floor much prior to Thursday’s win over Mexico but the pairing proved effective.
Canada continues to move closer to securing a top-four finish at the FIBA Americas Tournament, which would give them entry to next year’s World Cup in Spain.
A win on Friday night would push their record to 4-1, which may be enough to guarantee them a trip to Madrid.