Indiana Pacers became the first team in NBA history to start game with three Canadian players
Last Wednesday was a special day for the NBA, as the Pacers started three Canadian-born players for their game against the Raptors, becoming the first franchise to ever do so in league history.
Yep, as amazing as that may sound, Oshae Brissett, Andrew Nembhard and Bennedict Mathurin just made the league’s history books, making it a true Canadian basketball night in Toronto’s Scotiabank Arena.
Probably the most surprising start was for Brissett, who featured in the initial lineup just for the second time this campaign. As for Mathurin, who has become a squad star in Indiana, was his 8th time in the starting five so far.
Head Coach Rick Carlisle talks about Bennedict Mathurin, Andrew Nembhard and Oshae Brissett coming back to Canada and how basketball is growing in the country.
"This country has become a real hotbed for basketball talent." pic.twitter.com/vOgBZ5B6cW
— Indiana Pacers (@Pacers) March 22, 2023
“It’s an exciting time for Andrew and Benn particularly. Oshae loves coming back here… for those guys, there’s just a lot of buzz about being here,” Pacers head coach Rick Carlisle said before the game in Toronto. “Pretty cool thing for these guys to come back.”
Both Mathurin and Nembhard performed an impressive rookie season for Indiana, as they were selected for the Rising Stars event in Salt Lake City last month, each reaching almost 2,000 minutes played this season. As for Brissett, who actually played his first year as a professional for the Raptors, originally joined the Pacers back in 2020.
As all these three athletes have participated before for the men’s Canadian National Team, coach Carlisle simply couldn’t resist mentioning how much the sport has grown in their country.
“It also speaks to what’s happening in Canada in terms of the development of great young talent. Pretty amazing, pretty breathtaking,” the Indiana coach mentioned. “They’ve got Nick [Nurse] coaching the national team. That thing is in great hands. Really impressive. This country has become a real hotbed for basketball talent.”
A day before the game, Canadian-based City News asked rookie Andrew Nembhard how it felt to be back in Toronto for an official NBA contest. Check out what the youngster said in the following video:
How did the Canadian trio perform on this special occasion?
Nembhard, Brissett, and Mathurin made Canadian basketball proud as they all combined together for 49 points, 10 rebounds, and 11 assists on 18 out of 30 shooting.
As it was Nembhard and Mathurin’s first-ever NBA game in Toronto, they definitely felt inspired considering the fact that friends and family had made it to the Scotiabank Arena to see them play.
But it was Nembhard who stole the show. The rookie ended the game with 25 points and 10 assists while shooting 11/17 from the field. But most impressively, the Pacers wouldn’t have won the game if it wasn’t for him dropping a 30-foot three-pointer with only 32 seconds to go that settled the score.
“To do it tonight in essentially his hometown, the first time he’s back here… The kid used to come to the game [in Toronto] and sit in the third level and all that. To be in the starting lineup and to have this kind of a game…just an amazing night for him and his family,” his coach said with pride.
The contest came to an end with Indiana on top, beating the Raptors 118 to 114, making history in Canadian soil.
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