Fans anxiously awaiting the start of the NBA season were treated to quite the appetizer Friday night.
In front of a jam-packed and raucous crowd in Mexico City, the Venezuelan men’s national basketball team shocked Canada 79-78 in the semifinals of the FIBA Americas Championship to secure a spot in the Summer Olympics for the first time since 1992.
Boston Celtics center Kelly Olynyk did all he could to carry the Canadian side, but it was not enough to hold off the upstart Venezuelans, who emerged victorious thanks to a highly controversial foul call on Canada’s Aaron Doornekamp — younger brother of former Boston College center Nate Doornekamp — in the game’s final seconds.
The call, which came with 0.3 seconds remaining in a tie game, gave Venezuela’s Gregory Vargas two foul shots. He sank the first, then intentionally missed the second. Canada captain Cory Joseph grabbed the rebound, but he could not get off a desperation shot before time expired and the Venezuela bench raced out to celebrate at midcourt.
Canada now must earn its trip to Rio 2016 through an Olympic qualifier tournament to be held next summer. The United States’ northern neighbors failed to qualify for each of the last three Olympic Games.
“It’s very disappointing, obviously,” head coach Jay Triano said, via Team Canada’s official website. “Our dreams have been put on hold.”
Olynyk enjoyed his best game as an international, pouring in a game-high 34 points on 11-of-13 shooting to go along with 13 rebounds.
“If it wasn’t for Kelly, we would have gotten crushed,” Joseph said, via the Toronto Sun’s Ryan Wolstat.
Thumbnail photo via Twitter/@Sportsnet
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