Following a signature overtime win over the world’s number one team, Canadian head coach Jordi Fernández and his coaching staff took the cautious approach.
Trailing by one point (48-47) at half-time to a rapidly improving Dominican Republic team, Fernández decided to rest his starters as Canada wrapped-up its FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 exhibition schedule with a 94-88 loss.
Karl-Anthony Towns, making his return to the national side after last playing internationally in the 2013 FIBA Americas championship, delivered nine early points, culminating in a 20-point, 6-rebound performance on 5-of-9 field goal shooting including 3-of-5 three-pointers, and 5-of-6 free-throws.
LJ Figueroa similarly shone, amassing 20 points on 9-of-14 shooting, while Angel Delgado secured a double-double with 10 points and 12 rebounds.
After relying heavily on his starting unit in three of the first four games and wanting to ensure a clean bill of health ahead of the World Cup, Canada’s reserves were extensively tested through extended minutes.
“We had to be smart with our minutes, especially with the first group after playing an overtime game in a back-to-back. Obviously it’s not very realistic, because there’s not going to be back-to-backs in the tournament (FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023) we wanted to keep building physically, and obviously, to compete and I think we did,” Fernández said following the game.
Rolling out a second-half line-up of Nickiel Alexander-Walker, Philip Scrubb, Luguentz Dort, Melvin Ejim and Zach Edey, the Canadians showed resistance by building a six point lead (58-52) on back-to-back three-pointers by Alexander-Walker and Dort.
After riding the hot shooting hand of Towns and Figueroa in the first-half, the Dominican Republic’s supporting cast also answered the call as both teams exchanged the lead multiple times and settled for a 66-66 tie at the end of the third-quarter.
As the action resumed, in the fourth-quarter, point guard Kenny Cherry delivered a beautiful no look pass to Kyle Alexander to give Canada a two point lead. That turned out to be the last time Team Canada found themselves ahead.
The Dominican side responded with a 14-0 run to take control of the game at 80-68. While late three-pointers from Phil Scrubb and Trae Bell-Haynes sliced the deficit to three, Canada could not further narrow the gap.
As a result, Nestor Garcia’s contingent celebrated a well-earned six-point triumph.
Luguentz Dort (Montreal, Que.), logging the highest minutes at 23, spearheaded Canada’s offensive efforts with 13 points, five rebounds, and two assists. Complementing his performance, Bell-Haynes contributed 12 points, five rebounds, and two assists.
Canada got off to a hot start, propelled by Dwight Powell’s contribution of 8 points and three rebounds, in addition, Dillon Brooks had the jump shot going early on with 10 points and four rebounds, along with RJ Barrett’s matching figures.
A three-pointer from Brooks extended Canada’s lead to a game-high seven points (24-17) with two minutes to play in the first-quarter, but a quick 10-2 run by the Dominican Republic seized momentum as Delgado connected on a two pointer to put the Caribbean nation in front 27-26.
Poor foul shooting once again hampered the Canadian offence as they struggled by going 20-of-33 (60%) from free-throws. The Dominican Republic was much sharper at 16-of-21 (76%) from charity stripe opportunities.
The attention now turns to selecting the final 12-man roster that will travel to Jakarta, Indonesia as Canada gets set to kick off its 14th FIBA Basketball World Cup.