Canada’s path to a 2019 FIBA basketball World Cup medal and hopes of a 2020 Olympic berth took a serious blow prior to the start of the games as No. 23 Team Canada was drawn into the group of death — alongside global powerhouses No. 6 Lithuania, No. 11 Australia, and No. 37 Senegal.
For Canada to have a shot at getting to the podium they will have to finish in the top two spots of Group H to advance to second round of the tournament — where the top 16 teams will be split into four new groups (Groups I, J, K, L). If it reaches that stage Team Canada will once again have to finish in the top two to advance to the quarter-finals.
Canada’s road to the 2020 Tokyo summer Olympics is a complex and tough process — given FIBA’s decision to make the World Cup apart of the qualification process. Seven spots are currently up for grabs at FIBA’s flagship event and with hosts Japan earning an automatic entry the room for error is minuscule.
To reach the Olympics, Canada will have to finish as one of the top two teams from the seven team America’s region that features the world’s number one squad in the United States of America alongside traditional mainstays Argentina, Brazil, Dominican Republic, Venezula and Puerto Rico.
If Canada is unable to secure a spot as one of the two top America’s region teams, they will hope to be amongst the top 16 teams at the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup where they will be granted automatic qualification to a last chance tournament taking place next summer at a yet to be determined locations. If unable to finish in the top 16, Canada’s last hope would be one of the last eight countries that FIBA would invite for one of the last-chance qualifier tournaments.
Therefore, if Canada has any hopes of qualifying for the 12-team 2020 Summer Olympics via the World Cup they will need to advance from Group H one as top two teams, failure to advance in the premilinary round will automatically put Canada’s hopes at the mercy FIBA via the invitation tournament only.
Should Canada reach the second-round they will be placed in the newly formed Group L, alongside Group G winner and runner-up — potentially setting up another group of death with No. 3 France, No. 11 Germany, No. 11 Australia or No. 6 Lithuania.
To make matters worse for the Canadians, they have been pooled on the same half of the draw as the United States — which would mean a potential quarter-finals match-up between the two neighbouring nations, if Canada can somehow get there.
If the Canadians can reach the quarter-finals there is a good chance they alongside the USA would be last two standing Americas teams — thus earning automatic berth to Tokyo 2020.
As evident, by the World Cup draw and given FIBA’s recent changes it’s clearly going to be a tough road for the Canadians to fullfill their 2020 vision of becoming a global basketball powerhouse.
Canada opens up the World Cup against Australia on Saturday August 31st and will take on Lithuania on two days rest on Monday September 2nd beforing concluding Group H action against Senegal on Wednesday September 4th, 2019. All of Canada’s preliminary round games will be played in Dongguan, China
Canada sweeps two-game series against New Zealand
Team Canada fought off a strong effort from the New Zealand Tall Blacks to sweep a two-game pre-FIBA World Cup Series with a 103-100 overtime victory.
Philip Scrubb scored a team-high 24 points, dished out 6 assists and pulled down 5 rebounds to once again lead six Canadians in double-figures. Kevin Pangos added 17 points and 9 assists. Oshae Brissett continued to produce with 12 points, 12 rebounds, 2 assists double-double before fouling out. Kyle Witjer 18 points, 5 rebounds. Thomas Scrubb 12 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists and Owen Klassen 10 points and 10 rebounds.
The Tall Blacks came out strong after being embarrassed by a 34-point loss to the Canadians in game one of the series leading 23-13 after the first-quarter. Canada was able to execute in the second-quarter ripping off a 12-2 run to get back in the game and trailed New Zealand 36-33 at half-time.
The Canadians broke-open a 48-48 tie mid-way through the third-quarter with an 8-0 run taking a 56-48 lead on two made free-trows by Thomas Scrubb and finished the quarter ahead 60-59.
Kevin Pangos drilled two three-pointers early in the fourh-quarter to push the Canadian lead to 71-61 with 7:24 to play in regulation. The Tall Blacks continued to play hard on the strength of Cory Webster who poured in a game-high 33 points, added 5 rebounds and 5 assists to force overtime at 81-81.
Kyle Wiltjer caught fire in the extra session scoring 11 of Canada’s 22 overtime points, knocking down two triples as the Team Canada hang-on for the the win a series sweep.
“We are just glad we got win, I thank all the fans who came out made the game fun, that’s what its all about.” thanked Witjer after the game.
“We have a very beautiful team, very unselfish so any given guy can step-up every night so it makes us tough to defend.” – continued Wiltjer about his performance after the game.
With Canada missing majority of their current NBA stars, Wiltjer a former second-round pick of the Houston Rockets is extremely proud to represent Canada once again “its a huge honor every time I play for Canada so I’m really honored to be on this team and Australia is beautiful country so thank you for having us”
Canada connected on 14-of-50 triples (28%) and struggled at the free-throw line shooting 17-of-26 (65%). Canada yanked-down 20 offensive rebounds on their way to a slim 58-55 advantage.
A night after losing Kaza Kajami-Keane to an ankle injury Team Canada lost yet another point guard as Andrew Nembhard picked-up a right knee injury early in the first-quarter and didn’t return.
Despite various incorrect reports, Canadian head coach Nick Nurse confirmed that point guard Cory Joseph will indeed be available for the 2019 FIBA World Cup.
Canada improves to 4-2, with victories over Nigeria, Australia and New Zealand (2x). Team Canada will take on the United States of America in their final exhibition game before the 2019 FIBA World Cup.
Canada simply too much New Zealand
Canada opened-up a two-game exhibition series against New Zealand firing on all-cylinders — blowing-out the Tall Blacks 122-88 in Sydney, Australia.
Aaron Best game-high 20 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals led a complete team effort that saw all Canadian players hit the scoresheet with six players in double-figures.
Andrew Nembhard continued his stellar exhibition play with 17 points, 4 assists, 3 rebounds and 2 steals including a game-high 27 minutes. Oshae Brissett added 16 points, 7 rebounds. Owen Klassen just missed out on a double-double with 12 points, 9 rebounds. Kevin Pangos returned to the starting line-up and registered 10 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists. Duane Notice got his first taste of action and rounded-out the top scorers with 10 points in just 13 minutes.
Philip Scrubb (8 points, 2 rebounds) drilled back-to-back-three-pointers as Canada scored the first 10 points of the game. New Zealand reeled-off 11-straight to take their only lead of the game at 13-12 — Canada wasted no time responding with a game-changing 20-0 run on barrage of three-pointers to run away with the game and 35-16 first-quarter lead on 7-of-14 triples in the first 10 minutes.
“It was a great team effort, guys were sharing the ball, we were getting up-and down and getting it after on defense, we stuck to the game plan and were able to come-out with the win.” discussed player of the game Aaron Best after shooting 4-for-8 from the three-point line.
The hot shooting continued in the second-quarter with Canada ringing-up another 26 points to take a 61-47 half-time lead. The Canadians shot 23-for-41 (56%) from the floor, drilling 9-of-20 three-pointers and out-rebounded the Tall Blacks 27-18 in the opening 20 minutes.
Team Canada outscored the Tall Blacks 31-26 in the third-quarter and closed out the game by hitting the century for the first-time in the exhibition series in 34 point win of New Zealand.
Canada splashed 43-of-78 (55%) field-goals, knocked down 16-of-36 (44%) three-pointers and pounded the Kiwis 53-33 on the glass.
Unfortunately the win came at a cost as Canadian guard Kaza Kajami-Keane (8 points, 2-of-2 three-pointers in 5 minutes) was helped to the locker room with what looked like a pretty bad ankle injury. Kajami Keane had been playing well — fighting for 12-men roster spot on a loaded Canadian back-court.
Tai Webster led the Tall Blacks with 19 points, 7 rebounds. Rob Loe and Isaac Fotu added 17 points each. Cory Webster chipped in with 13 points and 6 rebounds.
Tall Blacks split a pair of games (99-89 loss, 104-87) against Japan and will play France and Serbia in China to wrap-up their preparation schedule. New Zealand is in a extremely tough group F that features Greece, Brazil and Montenegro.
The two teams will go at it again tomorrow night as Canada (3-2) continues to prepare for the 2019 FIBA World Cup in China.
Nick Nurse opted to rest Kyle Witjer and was still without the services of starting point guard Cory Joseph and sharp-shooter Brady Heslip. Joseph is expected to join the team for Canada in China in time for the 2019 World Cup.
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