One down and a long road ahead for Canada in their quest to qualify for the Rio 2016 Olympics after a 94-87 opening loss to Argentina at the FIBA Americas tournament.
After jumping out to an early lead and winning the first quarter, Canada crumbled under the execution of the Argentinians and trailed at the half.
New Raptor Luis Scola caught fire and threw up 18 points in the third, twirling in the paint for an array of soft baby-hooks that inevitably hit nothing but net. Scola finished with 35 points and 13 rebounds in a classic international performance he’s become known for.
“It’s a good experience for us. I thought they controlled the game – the point guards controlled the game. It’s not the outcome we wanted, we beat them the last two times we played them. They were more up to the task than we were today,” said Head Coach Jay Triano in a release.
The outcome can’t be what Canadian hoops fans were anticipating with all the sky-high expectations surrounding the roster, but the loss isn’t fatal.
Canada must win their next three games against Cuba, Venevuela, and Puerto Rico to secure their position in the medal round where they’ll likely have a tougher draw now that the Argentinians have taken control of the pool.
Andrew Wiggins scored a team-high 13 points, but Canada will need more than that from their top dog when the games start to really matter at the end of this tournament.
They’ll also need support from Andrew Nicholson who led Canada in scoring through the Pan Am Games earlier this summer, but contributed a meagre 2 point effort in the opener.
Argentina took advantage of some sloppy Canadian play turning turnovers into 20 points, but the main area of focus for the Canadian side should be locking down the post.
Scola is an international opponent that has dominated Canada in the past and they still failed to match up effectively on defence with him. When he went on his scoring run in the third it was clear that no Canadian interior defender was up to the task. Canada must lock down the paint.
Kelly Olynyk grabbed a team-high 10 boards to go with his 11 points for a double-double but Canada was out-rebounded 45-39.
“I think tomorrow, we just got to bring it, bring lots of energy. Keep doing what we’ve been doing the past two weeks; playing together, playing as one, moving the ball. When we do that kind of stuff, the ball goes in the basket,” said Olynyk.
Argentina proved masterful at creating opportunities for each other, running the pick and roll to perfection and finding shooters ready to launch. Canada must similarly find a way to move the ball and create for each other.
NEXT GAME – Canada vs Cuba @ 3:30pm EST on TSN
For full FIBA Americas roster, click here.
For more information about the FIBA Americas Men’s Championship, click here.