Cory Joseph gave his teammates a spark when they needed it as Canada got off to a promising start at the FIBA Americas Championship basketball tournament.
He also played 37 minutes, something Canadian coach Jay Triano said can’t happen every game.
Joseph scored 17 points and added 10 assists and eight rebounds as Canada defeated Jamaica 85-64 in Friday’s tournament opener.
Watch: Joseph shines in Canada's win over Jamaica
The San Antonio Spurs guard had his best stretch at the end of the third quarter, when Canada was in need of a lift. Jamaica had a 15-0 run in the third to cut Canada’s once sizable lead, but Joseph capped the quarter with a three-pointer to put Canada up 60-50.
Joseph scored Canada’s last eight points at the end of the third.
“He had us going,” Triano said. “I thought his coming off of ball screens and what he was doing was very good.”
But Triano is going to need other players to step up and take the pressure off Joseph. Canada plays four games in five days at the tournament, including three in a row, which will require the coach to utilize his entire roster to cover off minutes.
“We can’t play Cory this many minutes moving forward, but we knew the importance of this first game and getting us off to a good start,” Triano said, adding he believes Canada has the depth to address the issue.
“Just because a guy like Andrew Nicholson only plays 16 and a half minutes today, doesn’t mean he’s going to play that tomorrow. He’ll probably have games where he’s up into the 30s.”
Brady Heslip added 17 points off the bench for Canada. Levon Kendall had 13 points and eight rebounds while Tristan Thompson had 11 points and 12 boards.
Triano said Heslip, who plays college basketball with Baylor, adds a needed offensive element to the Canadian roster.
“He’s got a very good basketball IQ,” Triano said. “He knows where to find spots and where to score points. He and Andy (Rautins) are both guys who can spread the floor for us.
“Scoring points is going to be an issue for us, so if those guys can not only score points but contribute by making good plays and getting good assists, then that’s going to make it better for us.”
Adrian Uter led Jamaica with 16 points and eight rebounds.
Canada’s next game is Saturday against Puerto Rico, which was a 78-71 winner when the teams met last week at the Tuto Marchand Continental Cup.
“Their ability to come off screen and rolls, their ability to get into the paint, collapse the defence then kick out the threes ... those are going to be the keys for us,” Triano said. “We have to do a good job of containing the ball.”
The four tournament semi-finalists advance to the 2014 FIBA World Cup in Spain.