Canadian and NBA basketball history was made Sunday night in the Toronto Raptors game against the OKC Thunder in Tampa Bay, Florida, as it was the first time that three players from Montreal started in an NBA game! It was Incredible to see this amazing moment for basketball in Canada, which continues to grow by leaps and bounds each year! Congratulations Chris Boucher, Khem Birch and Luguentz Dort who’s hard work, dedication to the game and perseverance, despite all being undrafted, led to this historic moment for Canadian basketball.
Former Canadian Sr. Men’s National Team Member, Assistant Coach at Concordia University in Montreal and basketball analyst, Dwight Walton, was certainly tuned into the history-making game and offered his thoughts on what the game meant to the city of Montreal, despite other players from the city having suited up previously in the NBA. To Walton, this game just hit different.
“Montreal and the Province of Quebec has good players. Always have. Just never received the recognition we felt that we deserved. We’ve had players in the NBA before, players that have won championships (Joel Anthony and Bill Wennington), but seeing Khem Birch, Chris Boucher and Luguentz Dort all on the court at the same time, starting and making a significant impact on the result of the game, had a different feel to it. All of Montreal and the Province of Quebec felt validated”, said Walton.
Unfortunately OKC’s star PG and Canadian Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was injured, as there would have been a record 4 Canadian starters in the game!
Boucher, sealed the deal in the Raptors third win in a row with a clutch corner three (his career-high sixth of the game) to thwart the Thunder comeback! Boucher, a former NBA G League MVP & Defensive Player of the Year, in the same season, continues to impress and reward the Raptors faith in his play and ability after signing a 2-year contract last offseason. The fourth-year player Boucher, is averaging 13.8ppg and 6.7rpg this season while shooting 52% from the field and 39% from three point land.
The recently acquired Birch has been solid since coming to Toronto, averaging 9ppg and 6rpg on 53% shooting. Birch has also recorded seven blocks in the 5 games he’s played for the Raptors. He brings incredible energy on the defensive end for the Raptors, but since coming back home to Canada, has shown a real ability to score when his number is called.
Luguentz Dort, is already one of the best 2-way players in the NBA and takes pride in locking down his opponents, regardless of the stature or status, as witnessed in the NBA Bubble in the 2020 playoffs where he gave James Harden fits for the majority of the Thunder/Rockets series. Dort is averaging 13.9ppg 3.6rpg 1.6apg in his second year in the association. Dort has had some big time scoring efforts this season including a 42 point 7 rebound performance vs. the Jazz where he shot 51% in the game.
Walton also feels that the significance of having three starters in the game from Montreal will definitely have a very positive effect on the confidence and optimism of future ballers coming out of the 514.
“The impact of seeing Birch, Boucher and Dort on the court at the same time, will have a lasting impression on our younger generation who thought that playing in the NBA was only a dream. They will now realize that with hard work, anything is possible and that dreams can come true,” added Walton.
Gilgeous-Alexander, out with right foot plantar fasciitis, since March 22nd, is averaging a stellar 23.7ppg 5.9apg and 4.7rpg. He has missed the last 14 games for the Thunder and it is thought by some that OKC may keep him off the court for the remainder of the season out of precaution and consideration for his long term health.
Dort and Gilgeous-Alexander provide a very potent 1-2 back court punch for the Thunder, which when paired with a plethora of draft picks over the next few years, ensures this team has a very bright future in the NBA, which has been more and more dominated by the guard position.
Chris Boucher: 31pts 12rebs
Khem Birch: 7pts 6rebs 3asts
Luguentz Dort: 29pts 4rebs
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander: (DNP due to injury)
Canada basketball continues to be on the rise! Stay tuned for lots more info on Canadian hoops from #teamonpoint