Canada basketball
Holly MacKenzie

Around The NBA: Montréal trio inspire next generation of ballers from "la belle province"

NBA

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Apr 23, 2021

TORONTO, Ont. (April 24th, 2021) - In another week of big performances by Canadians in the NBA, nothing was topping the matchup between the Toronto Raptors and Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday. With Raptors big men Chris Boucher and Khem Birch and OKC’s Luguentz Dort, Sunday’s game marked the first time in NBA history that three players from Montreal, Quebec were together in an NBA game.

“Aw man this was historic,” Birch said. “This is something I'll tell my kids about in the future. Hopefully there will be more [of these games] in the future, but right now it’s a historic night. I’m happy that we got the W.”

In a game that went down to the wire, the Raptors took the win over the Thunder 112-106, behind a 31-point, 12-rebound double-double from Chris Boucher. Birch was playing just his fourth game with the Raptors since arriving in Tampa after spending the previous four seasons in Orlando. He finished with seven points, six rebounds, three assists a steal and a block, and his presence around the rim affected countless shots. Though the Thunder were on the losing end in this one, it wasn’t for lack of effort from Dort, who finished with 29 points on 9-for-15 field goals, including 5-for-8 from beyond the arc as the Thunder played without Hamilton, Ont. native Shai Gilgeous-Alexander who has been out due to injury.

The highlight of this game wasn’t the final score nor the individual performances.  It was another first for Canada Basketball and a huge first for hoopers in Montreal and Québec.

"We’ve come so far,” Boucher said. “People from Montreal, all the kids, this is to show you it’s possible. We have three guys from Montreal in the league at the same time. This one is for all the kids, all the people in Montreal with aspirations to play basketball. It’s really possible. You’ve just gotta have dedication and work hard.

“I just want to show what I can do for my game and let the kids believe in it,” he said. “Be better than me. I don't want them to be like me, I want them to be better than me.”

Free Throws

- This was also a huge week for Canadian Oshae Brissett. After signing a second 10-day contract with the Indiana Pacers, Brissett inked a three-year deal with the Pacers on Wednesday. Immediately after signing that contract, Brissett went out and dropped a career-high 23 points to go along with 12 rebounds and three blocked shots in a 122-116 Pacers win against the Oklahoma City Thunder. This was the third time in four games that Brissett has finished in double figures. After the game, he spoke about how he was feeling after an emotional (and awesome) day:

- Another week of basketball meant another week of New York Knicks wins. RJ Barrett and the Knicks have won an NBA-best eight straight games as New York moved to 33-27 on the season. Barrett averaged 20.5 points per game this week as the Knicks went 4-0, including a pair of overtime games against the Dallas Mavericks and Charlotte Hornets. In New York’s 109-97 win against the Hornets, Barrett scored 18 of his 24 points in the decisive third quarter as the Knicks won the quarter, 31-16 to take control of the game. The second-year shooting guard is averaging 17.3 points and 5.7 rebounds per game this season.

- Dillon Brooks scored a season-high 32 points as the Memphis Grizzlies defeated the Chicago Bulls 126-115 on Monday. Brooks shot 12-for-19 from the floor, including 4-for-7 from beyond the arc. He scored 15 of his 32 in the third quarter as the Grizzlies pulled away with the game. He followed that up with a 21-point performance in a Grizzlies win against the Milwaukee Bucks the very next day. Brooks is averaging 16.8 points in 52 games this season.

- A 16-point, 10-rebound double-double from Andrew Wiggins helped Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors record a 107-96 road victory against the Philadelphia 76ers on Monday. While Wiggins was fantastic, adding in two assists and two blocked shots to go with his double-double, Curry had 49 points and 10 three-pointers in the win. Through 58 games for the Warriors this season, Wiggins is averaging 18.1 points, 4.8 rebounds and 1.0 blocks per game. The 26-year-old is also averaging career-highs in field-goal percentage (47.7) and three-point field-goal percentage (38.8).

Game of the Week

Toronto Raptors @ New York Knicks - Saturday, April 24, 1 p.m. ET

When the Toronto Raptors meet the New York Knicks on Saturday, a winning streak is going to be snapped. While Toronto comes into Saturday’s game having won four straight, the Knicks enter the contest having won a current NBA-best eight straight games. The Raptors had Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet, OG Anunoby and Pascal Siakam available in Wednesday’s victory against the Brooklyn Nets for just the 20th time this season. The Knicks are rolling with Julius Randle putting up superstar performance after superstar performance, while RJ Barrett plays the second option to perfection. The status of big man Chris Boucher is unknown for Saturday's game after Boucher left Wednesday’s win with a knee strain, but with Birch and Barrett suiting up, and both teams eager to keep their streaks rolling, this will be one to watch.