Canada on to Pan Am Semis

TORONTO – Canada wrapped up preliminary play with a 96-76 win over Mexico to enter the semi final round at an undefeated but uneasy 3-0.

“It’s great to win the games but it doesn’t mean much now it’s a four-team tournament,” said head coach Jay Triano after the game.

“We’re still doing things like not understanding personnel, leaving shooters in corners and Mexico was able to stick around because of mental lapses defensively.”

Defence has been an issue for the Canadian side throughout and they’ll really have to get an edge on that end with the loser of Brazil vs USA on the horizon tomorrow.

Brady Heslip and Jamal Murray are lighting it up off the bench for Canada | image FIBA/ Reel Motion Imaging
Brady Heslip and Jamal Murray are lighting it up off the bench for Canada | image FIBA/ Reel Motion Imaging

A bright spot for Canada continues to be the backup backcourt of Brady Heslip and Jamal Murray. Heslip scored a game-high 20 points including 4-6 from three, and Murray had another strong outing with 14 points.

Jamal Murray continues to show he belongs on this team and at this level. Assuming Kentucky allows him to participate in FIBA Americas he’d be an asset to that roster. He’s showing his quickness and ability to set teammates up, though he still gets in the air before making a decision sometimes.

Andrew Nicholson notched another double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds despite battling foul trouble most of the game. FULL STATS HERE.

Melvin Ejim has also been a standout on this roster, using his international IQ to tip shots around the rim on both ends, being the ultimate glue guy wherever Canada needs him, and playing the role of the team’s best defender.

“I’ve improved as an all-around player,” Ejim told NPH after the game. “I’m someone who’s vocal, defensive, makes plays, is opportunistic. I’ve been able to play different positions, guard different positions and be more versatile playing on the perimeter inside and out.”

Melvin Ejim holds it down for Canada | image FIBA/ Reel Motion Imaging
Melvin Ejim holds it down for Canada | image FIBA/ Reel Motion Imaging

Much has been made of the “Have-Not” Canadian team missing many of the country’s finest players, but that’s not exclusive to Canada after speaking to Mexican journalist Jorge Rubio.

Gustavo Ayon is on vacation, and Jorge Gutierrez is searching for a roster spot on the Milwaukee Bucks.

There’s no basketball-exclusive national governing body in Mexico equivalent to Canada Basketball that leads to snap decisions. Mexican head coach Sergio Valdeolmillos was fired four months ago, then they called him to re-hire him a month and a half ago and that didn’t leave enough time to train.

The players haven’t had time to fully buy in and look forward instead to hosting the FIBA Americas Olympic qualifier at the end of August when they too will have their best players rather than a short bench. At Pan Ams one athlete listed on the roster isn’t here and three others haven’t touched the floor for various reasons.

Perspective is everything. Canada has it pretty good compared to the Mexican team’s situation.

Given that Argentina, Mexico and Dominican Republic haven’t been easy for Canada, the next test should be the true measure of what kind of team the hosts brought to the Pan Am Games.

But we still have yet to see Canada click on full cylinders during this tournament and that next gear should be able to lead them to the podium. We’ll find out after tomorrow’s Semi Final match at 6pm ET.

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