Facing a must win situation Canada fell flat, losing 92-69 to Lithuania to drop to 0-2 at the 2019 FIBA World Cup in China.
Head Coach Nick Nurse started with a small three point-guard line-up against a much taller and physical Lithuania team that featured Jonas Valanciunas (Memphis Grizzlies) and Domantas Sabonis (Indiana Pacers) — opting to double team the low-post on every early possession.
The strategy worked with mild success putting the Canadians in scramble mode and early foul trouble, trying to locate and rotate — thus allowing Lithuania to shoot 8-of-14 in the first-quarter for a 25-14 lead.
Canada committed 8 fouls and turned the ball over seven times forcing starters Khem Birch and Pangos to the bench with two early fouls.
Team Canada limited the turnovers, but continued to pill-up fouls in the second-quarter as Lithuania executed at a efficient level — maintaining a comfortable double-digit and 46-36 half-time advantage.
Canada failed to cut into the deficit in the second-half as Lithuania limited the Team Canada to just 33 second-half points outscoring the Canadians 24-18 in the third-quarter and 22-15 in the final 10 minutes for a convincing 23-point victory.
Kyle Wiltjer kept Canada in the game scoring 15 of his game-high 24 points in the first-half on 7-of-11 shooting and 3-of-3 from three-pointers.
“Obviously not the outcome that our team wanted, we have to learn from it, this not the end of the tournament. You have to give those two teams credit they are very seasoned, they play a lot of games together.” shared Wiltjer after the game.
“We just have to continue to be positive as a program and continue to work.”
Cory Joseph found the scoring touch late in the game, finishing 15 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists and Khem Birch added 12 points and 4 rebounds. Kevin Pangos struggled with foul-trouble and dished out 8 assists for the second-straight game.
Head Coach Nick Nurse seemed visible more upset after the loss and attributed the loss to the lack of size.
“It was a bit of size issue, we knew for us going in and it was pretty evident. There was a lot of baskets at the rim and there was a lot of second shots. I thought we came out pretty solid to start, we were doing some good double teaming on their bigs and had them rattled a little bit. The only problem we were turning it over a little bit too much early.” discussed Nick Nurse.
Lithuania dominated every aspect of the game shooting 36-of-71 (50.7%) and destroyed Canada on the glass with 47-26 edge including 19 offensive rebounds. The European powerhouse scored 52 paint points and outclassed Canada’s bench with a 43-35 advantage.
For the second game in a row Team Canada has failed to generate any fast-break points, racking up only 7 against Lithuania and 9 in the 108-92 opening loss to Australia at the World Cup
Edgaras Ulanovas 15 points, 5 rebounds paced a strong Lithuania squad that saw all but one player hit the scoresheet. Jonas Valanciunas 13 points and 8 rebounds. Mantas Kalnietis 11 points, 5 assists, 4 rebounds. Lukas Lekavicius 11 points, 2 rebounds. Domantas Sabonis 10 points, 8 rebounds.
Canada (0-2) will play Senegal (0-2) in the final game of Group H and will be placed in a newly created Group P in 17-32 classification bracket. The Canadians will be rejoined by Senegal, in addition to Jordan (0-2) and Germany (0-2) and will likely have to win all games with hopes of making a strong case for an Olympic Qualifying Tournament inclusion next summer.
Even then, if Canada does get an invitation to the one-of-four Qualifying Tournament euar they will have to win out the tournament for a chance at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
Lithuania (2-0) and Australia (2-0) will battle for first-place in Group H.