Canada’s senior men’s basketball team continued its march towards its first FIBA World Cup podium finish and a potential spot in the 2024 Paris Olympics by defeating Lebanon 128-73 in their second game of Group H.
Utilizing the entire line-up of available players, head coach Jordi Fernandez emptied the bench, allowing eleven players to score at least six points and play 14 minutes as Canada’s offence tied the federations senior men’s national team record for most points scored and set the FIBA World Cup single game mark for most points scored since data was officially recorded with 44 assists in their 55-point win.
Canada previously tied the assist record when it registered 37 helpers in a similar scoreline (126-71) against Jordan in 2019 and achieved its greatest margin of victory in an official FIBA World Cup game when it defeated Malaysia by 90 points, scoring 128 points at the 1986 FIBA World championships in Barcelona, Spain.
Additionally, three of Canada’s four biggest margins of victory in senior men’s basketball history at the World Cup have been against teams from FIBA Asia, Malaysia, Jordan, Lebanon and China with a 32 point win in 1994.
Lebanon scored the first four points of the game and kept pace (8-8) with the Canadians during the first four minutes. However, it didn’t take long before they were run over by an avalanche of dunks, lay-ups and three pointers to avenge a ten point (81-71) defeat at the 2010 FIBA World Cup.
Canada blew the game wide open by connecting on 8-of-10 three pointers during a pivotal 28-10 run, and finished the first half 11-of-18 from long range to lead 66-30 at halftime.
The victory over Lebanon, combined with Latvia’s 88-86 comeback win over winless France (0-2), guarantees Canada a spot in the second-round of the FIBA World Cup tournament for the first time since 1998.
RJ Barrett led all scorers with a game-high 17 points on 7-of-12 shooting and 3-of-6 from three-pointers. Trae Bell-Haynes had the hot hand with 15 points on 5-of-6 three-pointers and dished out a game high eight assists.
Melvin Ejim, a veteran of Team Canada, led the way with 13 points, five rebounds and three assists. Four other Canadian players followed close behind with 12 points each – Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Kelly Olynyk and Zach Edey.
Dillon Brooks and Kyle Alexander both contributed 10 points, Dwight Powell scored 9, and Philip Scrubb had 6 points and 5 assists. Luguentz Dort, who was out for precautionary reasons to due soreness, was the only Canadian not to have any points.
“We played together and shared the basketball. 43 assists to 15 turnovers is a record in the World Cup. It just shows that sharing is caring, and these guys were ready to play the right way, play with a pass. Sometimes in games like these, teams have the tendency to do it on their own and dribble too much,” remarked Canadian head coach Jordi Fernandez during the post-game interview.
“I’m proud of these guys for doing it the right way. Especially Trae here. Not just being ready to catch and shoot, but also sharing the ball with eight assists. I’m happy to share the table with him here,” he continued.
Canada concluded the match with an astonishing 71.4% percent shooting accuracy (50-of-70), burying 18-of-30 (60%) three-pointers and converting 10-of-14 (71.4%) free throws.
Recently naturalized citizen Omari Spellman paced Lebanon with 16 points on 6-of-15 field goal attempts. Karim Zeinoun aded 15 points on 6-of-7 shooting and Ali Haidar contributed with 11.
Up next for the Canadians will be a battle of undefeated teams, as Canada (2-0) and debutants Latvia (2-0) flex their muscles for Group H supremacy.
Both teams have secured a spot in the second-round of the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023. They will join the two top teams (Spain, Brazil) from Group G in a newly formed Group L.