You have to love Rowan Barrett's quote in the National Post, "We're not waiting for Steve Nash. We're not waiting for Samuel Dalembert. We have to do it with the guys that are here," after Canada stayed alive at the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament for Men with a 79-77 comeback win over Korea this morning in Athens.
Levon and the Hawks -- forward Levon Kendall took down 14 rebounds in Dalembert's absence -- were down 18 early in the second half and still trailed by 10 with two minutes left. In other words, you could say that it took them a game and a half to get it together, using Big Sam's departure as a rallying point as they kept breathing for another 48 hours. It will be Croatia-Canada in the quarter-final on Friday.
(Watching the re-broadcast on The Score, Rans Brempong came up big in the second half -- his length altered the game, and he started the comeback in earnest with a strong take inside that started an 8-1 run late in the third quarter.
The final two minutes was definitely a choking situation on Korea's part (Hey, Terry Murray is back behind a NHL bench, so that reference had to be used). They had a travel, two clanked free throws, a five-second call after a Canada basket, and some tentative possessions in the endgame.
It's probably more to Canada's benefit than Croatia's that there's a day of rest in between the group games and the quarter-final on Friday. Croatia shot the lights out in its 95-81 win over Puerto Rico -- 56% from the field, 89% from the free-throw line. Typically, as a fan, you'd like to see the other team have some time to cool off and maybe get a little overconfident before the next game. How often in basketball do you see a team just ride the crest of an emotional wave, when logic suggests they should be getting tired or at least regressing to their historical mean?
It's far better to have Croatia sit for a day. At least that's the hope, since a team that's shooting that well is going to be tough to beat, especially if Canada runs into any trouble trying to defend out on the perimeter.
The bottom line is it's win the next game and one more beyond and it's off to Beijing. A lot has to fall just so this scenario to kick in, but if Dalembert's out of the picture, does this mean Steve Nash could join the team without displacing anyone else from the roster?