Friday’s action was fine at the FIBA Americas tournament down in Venezuala, but Saturday’s games should offer a bit more intrigue. Four of the top five teams will be in action in the second day of round-robin play, featuring an interesting matchup of Canada against Puerto Rico.
Both teams take 1-0 records into the first weekend of the FIBA World Cup qualifier and should likely finish as one of the top four teams by the time the championship rolls around on September 11, thereby ensuring themselves a spot at next year’s 2016 Olympic qualifying tournament. Canada’s a bit heavier on current NBA players, but Puerto Rico’s roster features enough recognizable names to make this a fun game for NBA fans to watch (and they can live and for free, too, as long as ESPN3 is an option).
Canada was dominant in their victory over Jamaica on Friday, but San Antonio Spurs point guard Cory Joseph was the only Canadian NBA player to really assert himself on the offensive end. Cleveland Cavaliers power forward Tristan Thompson had a solidly unspectacular game with 11 points and 12 rebounds, but Orlando Magic forward Andrew Nicholson (seven points, four boards) and Miami Heat center Joel Anthony (six points, one board) weren’t even really solid when it came to playing on offense. Canada already lacks quite a bit of firepower — Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett and Kelly Olynyk aren’t participating in the tournament — so it’ll be key that the ancillary NBAers step up against a more talented Puerto Rican squad.
Puerto Rico faced a tougher test on Friday when they matched up with a talented Brazil team, but former Knicks forward Renaldo Balkman carried his team to victory with 24 points and eight rebounds. The other names NBA fans are likely familiar with weren’t as impressive, however, as it took 11 shots for Minnesota Timberwolves gaurd J.J. Barea to get his 12 points and NBA journeyman Carlos Arroyo made just two of his nine attempts to finish with seven points. Ricky Sanchez, currently property of the Miami Heat, picked up four points, rebounds and fouls apiece after getting the starting nod.
Saturday’s other game to keep an eye on will happen right after Canada-Puerto Rico when the Dominican Republic’s squad takes the court against Argentina. Luis Scola’s Argentinean team essentially was gifted a bye with Paraguay on Friday (the 95-60 outcome was not as close as it appears), but the Dominican squad should pose a bit more of a challenge. Al Horford opted out of playing this year, but have no fear because Jack Michael Martinez is still here. Martinez has never played in the NBA, but his official mug shot looks like this and he’s averaging a solid 14.7 points and 10.7 rebounds in international competition since 2001.
Saturday’s other games feature Uruguay vs. Jamaica and the hosting Venezuela taking on Paraguay in the nightcap.
The day’s full schedule, converted to Eastern time, is included below for your convenience.
11:30 a.m. – Uruguay (0-0) vs. Jamaica (0-1)
2 p.m. – Canada (1-0) vs. Puerto Rico (1-0)
5:30 p.m. – Dominican Republic (0-0) vs. Argentina (1-0)
8 p.m. – Paraguay (0-1) vs. Venezuela (0-1)