FIBA Americas: Canada beats Dominican Republic, awaits semifinal opponent

SECOND ROUND: There are two Olympic spots available at FIBA Americas. Based on their record in the first and second rounds (more below) Canada has clinched a Friday semifinal. Both finalists will qualify for Rio 2016.      

Wednesday, Sept. 9 – Canada vs. Dominican Republic

Canada fulfilled their part of the formula to jump Argentina for the semifinal first-seed by powering beyond the Dominican Republic 120-103 on Wednesday afternoon.

It was also the seventh-straight Canadian win for a 6-1 overall record (the win against Cuba was dropped based on the tournament structure).

Jay Triano’s team must now wait for the result of the Mexico and Argentina game tonight. Based on tie-breakers, if Mexico wins by fewer than 35 points Canada will play Venezuela in a Friday semifinal. Winning that game would mean the first Olympic appearance for Canada in 16 years.

First-round recap: Canada finishes second in Group B

Anthony Bennett won the tip then proceeded to hit four consecutive three-point shots, helping Canada to a 36-18 lead after only one quarter (10 minutes for FIBA). Canada hit their first eight from beyond the arc and went 11 for 15 plus securing a 65-45 lead before the break.

Anthony Bennett defends (Photo: FIBA)

Anthony Bennett defends (Photo: FIBA)

Canada would hit the 100-point mark for the fifth time in the tournament two-minutes into the final quarter on a Robert Sacre bucket. It was no defensive beauty for the Canadians, who had allowed an average of 75 points-per-game before this afternoon.

Seven Canadian players scored in the double-digits. New Toronto Raptor Cory Joseph registered 17 points to lead his team along with seven assists and one block. “Trying to get everybody involved, trying to share the ball like I’ve been doing all tournament,” he told TSN.

Angel Suero topped the Dominican Republic with 19 points, plus six rebounds. Canada hit 57% of shots from the field, including 14 of 25 (56%) from range, and outrebounded the Dominicans 50-26.

The Mexico and Argentina game begins at 9:30 pm ET. “Someone’s going to have to play us,” Kelly Olynyk told TSN when asked which team he’d prefer. Again, either way Canada must win Friday to make the Olympics. It’ll help to play Venezuela instead of, for example, Mexico.

Canada’s Olympic qualifying game (semifinal) – Friday, Sept. 11

7 pm or 9:30 pm ET
*seeding to be finalized after MEX vs. ARG tonight

Tuesday, Sept. 8 – Canada 94-73 Mexico

The five-straight Canadian wins since losing the tournament opener to Argentina were all against definitively less talented teams.

On Tuesday night, Canada put Mexico in that group with a resounding 94-73 win, their sixth-in-a-row at FIBA Americas. “I think we’re getting more comfortable playing with each other, our players are starting to learn and understand the international game,” reflected head coach Jay Triano on Canada’s upswing.

Billed as a road game, the healthy crowd in Mexico City was quietened by the work of Andrew Wiggins who deftly provided 10 points in the first 10-minutes and finished the game with 17 points and four rebounds. “I hit my first shot and it gave me confidence throughout the whole rest of the game,” Wiggins told TSN.

Andrew Nicholson came off the bench for an efficient 15 points and three rebounds in 19-minutes played. “The ball’s been rolling for me offensively,” said Nicholson afterwards.

Canada would lead 26-17 after one quarter.

Andrew Nicholson has 15 points in each of his last two games. (Photo: FIBA)

Andrew Nicholson has 15 points in each of his last two games. (Photo: FIBA)

In a move reflective of Canada’s depth, Triano swapped out all five starters for bench players after the first quarter. The move pushed the lead to 22 (52-30) by halftime.

Support man Melvin Ejim had 12 points and eight rebounds as Canada shot a solid 53% from the field to Mexico’s 48%. Canada hit 81% (13 of 16) from the free throw line. Francisco Cruz had 13 points to lead Mexico.

Canada closes their second round against the Dominican Republic on Wednesday at 3:30 pm ET.

Semifinal seeding TBD

A win on Friday and you’re in Rio 2016. Canada still has a chance to finish as the first-seed heading into semifinals. This would be big because they would avoid Mexico or Argentina, and play a lesser team to-be-determined.

Canada must beat the Dominican Republic. If Mexico beats Argentina on Wednesday both teams plus Canada will have a 6-1 record. The tie-breaker used would be goal (points) difference of the games between the three teams. Because Canada lost to Argentina by 7 and beat Mexico by 21, their points difference is +14.

Therefore, Canada can win the first seed if Mexico beats Argentina by 35 points or less.

Canada has not qualified for the Olympic Games since Sydney 2000 where they were seventh.

Canada’s second-round schedule:
Wednesday, September 9 vs. Dominican Republic 3:30 pm ET
WIN 103-66 Sunday, September 7 vs. Panama
WIN 109-82 Monday, September 8 vs. Uruguay
WIN 94-73 Tuesday, September 8 vs. Mexico

Monday, Sept. 7 – Canada 109-82 Uruguay 

It was another relaxed night at their hard-court office as Canada cruised past Uruguay 109-82 for their fifth win in-a-row in Mexico City.

It’s the third-straight game Canada has broken the 100-point mark, and fourth overall in the tournament. There really hasn’t been a challenge for Canada since a 94-87 loss to Argentina in game one. And more impactful to their fortunes at FIBA Americas: the smooth outings have allowed head coach Jay Triano to spread the minutes to his bench and rest starters.

Canada Basketball’s FIBA Americas roster

On Monday night it was a recharged Andrew Nicholson, who off the bench turned in a 15 point and 10 rebound double-double in 17-minutes on the floor. “As long as we win, that’s all I care about,” said Nicholson to TSN.

Brady Heslip ate up almost 21-minutes, scoring 13 points. Phil Scrubb shared duty with Cory Joseph. And in only 22-minutes Andrew Wiggins again led his team, tonight with 18 points.

Andrew Nicholson, pictured here against Panama on Sunday, has contributed well off the bench in recent games. (Photo: FIBA)

Andrew Nicholson, pictured here against Panama on Sunday, has contributed well off the bench in recent games. (Photo: FIBA)

Melvin Ejim also came up big, delivering 11 points and six rebounds in only 13 minutes on the floor. Nicolas Borsellino had 15 points for Uruguay.

Canada was again solid from the field, shooting 53% to Uruguay’s 46%. The Canadians outrebounded 46-20.

While Canada has handled Cuba, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Panama, and now Uruguay with ease their tournament won’t be elementary forever. On Tuesday at 9:30 pm ET it’s the powerful Mexicans, who as of writing have yet to lose. Mexico could also be the semifinal opponent for Canada, their barrier to the Rio Olympics, as only the finalists at this tournament qualify.

Canada should make the top-four, and are sitting third assuming a win for Mexico later on Monday. Full standings here.

Elsewhere on Monday

Argentina rolled to 5-0 with an 84-57 win over Panama, the team Canada beat on Sunday night. Puerto Rico scored their first win of the tournament, 98-92 over the Dominican Republic, with Jose Barea supplying a monster 37-points. The second evening-game on Monday is Mexico and Venezuela.

Sunday, Sept. 6 – Canada 103-66 Panama

One day break meant a fresh Canadian squad beat Panama 103-66 to open the second round at FIBA Americas in Mexico City.

During the four-game preliminary round of this tournament Canada developed an increasingly formidable offence, and again showed it on Sunday night. Brady Heslip dropped seven of 13 long balls for a team leading 23 points. Playing only 18-minutes Andrew Wiggins had 17 points and shot a sweet 86% from the field.

Andrew Wiggins dunks versus Panama (Photo: FIBA)

Andrew Wiggins dunks versus Panama (Photo: FIBA)

Responding to a brief two-point deficit halfway through the first quarter, Canada went on a 14-0 run extending to early in the second quarter. As he does Cory Joseph attacked the paint, spreading the ball around on the way to 15 points, four rebounds and three assists in the game.

Curiously, late in the first-half head coach Jay Triano would send in Nik Stauskas to join fellow sharp shooter Brady Heslip. This would spur Heslip to hit another two three-pointers, giving him five in the first twenty minutes and a team leading 15 points at the half.

Brady Heslip (Photo: FIBA)

Brady Heslip (Photo: FIBA)

Again, a monster third quarter from the Canadians all but put the game away. They out-scored Panama 35-20. Since losing their tournament opener to Argentina, Canada has out-scored opponents by 119 points.

Dwight Powell returned to the Canadian line-up after missing Friday’s game with an elbow injury.

Because Canada’s first-round win against Cuba is removed from their record they are now 3-1, with seven points. Again, the goal is top-four, which looks increasingly likely for the Canadians. Updated standings are here.

Earlier on Sunday

Argentina remained unbeaten by squeaking past Uruguay 90-87, tournament points-per-game leader Luis Scola had 26 points. Earlier Venezuela beat the Dominican Republic 72-68. Mexico will play Puerto Rico to end the first day of second-round action.