Entering the 2023 FIBA World Cup, Canada had a point differential of +351 in twelve qualifying games.
Throughout the opening three games of the World Cup, Canada has continued their impressive run, solidifying a +111 point margin by outscoring their opponents—France (30), Lebanon (55), and now Latvia—by a total of 26 points.
By securing an impressive 101-75 victory, they propelled themselves into the next stage of the 32-team tournament, asserting their dominance as unbeaten preliminary group stage winners for the first time in World Cup history.
Confronting adversity and a double-digit deficit for the first time in the tournament, the Canadians quieted a spirited and pro-Latvian crowd by outscoring their European counterparts 58-33 in the second half.
Latvia opened the game with confidence, and it didn’t take long for their precise ball movement and three-point shooting to put the Canadians in scramble mode.
They made three consecutive triples, giving them an early 9-5 advantage and by the end of the first quarter, their lead had grown to ten points, with a score of 23-13.
Approaching halftime, a layup by Davis Bertans extended Latvia’s lead to 12 points (32-20). However, Nickiel Alexander-Walker’s three-pointer rekindled Canada’s offensive momentum.
Subsequent contributions from Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and RJ Barrett, including a triple and fast-break dunk, narrowed the margin to seven points, prompting a timeout from Latvian head coach Luca Banchi.
Canada then proceeded to outscore Latvia 23-10, eventually taking their first lead of the game on Barrett’s last second layup and ending the half with a score of 43-42.
In the second half, the Canadians went on a 10-2 scoring run to commence the third period and kept Latvia from making a three-pointer until the middle of the fourth quarter. This allowed them to extend their advantage to 67-57 by the end of the quarter.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was a major factor in this success, as he scored 16 of his total 27 points in the ten-minute period, outscoring Latvia 16-15.
“We started slow. We weren’t playing to our identity, not playing selfless. And then going into the second, we just started to do the little things, play for each other, get out on defence, box out, rebound, and make the extra pass. We played the right way, and the game slowly turned for us,” stated Canadian guard Gilgeous-Alexander.
Gilgeous-Alexander concluded the evening with a 10-of-17 shooting record, supplemented by six assists and six rebounds.
His performance marked him as the fourth Canadian player to achieve multiple 25-point games in a single FIBA World Cup tournament, a feat unparalleled since Jay Triano’s achievement in 1986.
RJ Barrett concluded the game on a high note, amassing 22 points through 9-of-14 shooting, including 4-of-6 three-pointers and Kelly Olynyk registered his third consecutive double-digit scoring game with 15 points, six rebounds and four assists.
Alexander-Walker also had a strong game with 14 points, five rebounds and two assists, capping the game with four successful three-pointers, extending his streak of four made three-pointers for the third consecutive game.
“It was a great test for us to continue to play through adversity like not making shots and getting calls. We just figured out a way to win. From personal experience, it’s hard to come back from being down 10, so for us to do that was big,” reflected Alexander-Walker during his post game interview.
Jordi Fernandez’s team had five Canadian players make multiple three-pointers for the second consecutive game, and they finished with a shooting percentage of 41%, making 16 out of 39 attempts from behind the three-point line.
Following their hot shooting start, Latvia finished the game 10-of-36 (28%) from long range.
Six-foot-eight forward Andrejs Gražulis led the European nation with 16 points, Rodions Kurucs finished with a double-double of 14 points, 10 rebounds, four assists and shifty guard Arturs Žagars contributed 11 points and four assists.
Canada now moves into the second round of the tournament where it will be placed in group L, alongside undefeated Spain (3-0, +48), Brazil (2-1, +35) and Latvia (2-1, +15).
In the next round, they will play two games, on Friday, September 1st against Brazil and versus Spain on Sunday, September 3rd — both slated to begin at 9:30 a.m. ET.
With the results and point differential of the first-round carried over into the second-round, Canada is in good shape to secure one of the two top spots in the group in order to advance to the quarter-finals.