Pacers leave Toronto with a win, season sweep of the Raptors and a piece of history
The Pacers made history by starting three Canadians for Wednesday's game, then Andrew Nembhard guided the team to a rare win across the border.
Scotiabank Arena is one of the best game-night environments in the NBA. It’s loud, with a passionate fan base and a team they’ve connected with well.
And with three Pacers players back in their home country on Wednesday, there was inevitably a little extra juice in the building.
It was a homecoming of sorts for Oshae Brissett, along with rookies Bennedict Mathurin and Andrew Nembhard.
It was the third and final meeting between the teams this season, but just the first in Toronto. So Pacers head coach Rick Carlisle made sure it was a memorable one — both for his players and the country.
Carlisle, having a great feel for the moment once again, elected to start all three. That marked the first time in NBA history that three Canadians had started a game together.
“Historic night for Canada Basketball,” Carlisle said after the game.
Raptors fans are loud and dedicated. You probably remember seeing Jurassic Park, the area right outside the arena, go off during their playoff runs several years ago. And especially during the run to their only title in 2019, led by Kawhi Leonard.
“Definitely a Raptors fans growing up, especially the last few years when they won the championship and the city was buzzing,” guard Nembhard said earlier this season. He grew up in Aurora, about 40 minutes away.
Mathurin, too, was a Raptors fan.
“For sure,” he said. “Growing up, the Toronto Raptors were the only team I used to watch. Having DeMar DeRozan, Vince Carter, Chris Bosh and all those guys. That was for sure a team I was looking at.”
His sister, Jenn, appeared to be sitting in courtside seats on the baseline adjacent to the team bench. She’s been right there several times this season to support her younger brother.
In addition to playing in front of family and friends, the Montreal native appreciated facing one of his college teammates and former roommate at Arizona, Christian Koloko.
“Christian is my guy,” Mathurin said previously. “I’m really proud of him and I’m really proud of what he’s done. … Playing against Christian is great because I remember last year, we used to work late nights and early mornings. He wasn’t really sure about how the process was gonna go and I used to tell him he’s got to work, trust the process and now we’re here.”
As for Brissett, a native of Toronto, his professional career began in 2019 with the Raptors — and then he moved on to the Pacers on the suggestion of former head coach Nate Bjorkgren, who is back as a front-of-bench coach for the Raptors.
Suffice to say, the Pacers had perhaps one of their largest cheering sections across the border thanks to these Canadians Pacers. And then they helped deliver, no one more than Nembhard.
He went off in the first quarter, scoring 14 of his team-high 25 points and finished with 10 assists. “Andrew set the tone for the game,” Carlisle said.
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial