Team Canada is playing for one of two men’s basketball Olympic spots at FIBA Americas in Mexico City. The preliminary round of the tournament is now complete, the second round begins Sunday, more on that here.

Friday, September 4 – Canada vs. Puerto Rico

Team Canada turned a close grapple into a heavy body slam, rolling over Puerto Rico 112-92 to finish the preliminary round second in their group at FIBA Americas.

Each team would erase a reasonable deficit early on. In the first quarter Puerto Rico overcame a seven-point gap, yet after ten minutes it was 24-23 Canada. Unlike the games versus Venezuela and Cuba, Canada wouldn’t run away early.

In the second quarter Puerto Rico pushed ahead by nine. Then a string of nine-consecutive free throws, five made by Andrew Wiggins and four by Cory Joseph, were part of an 11-0 Canadian run equalling a 46-44 lead at halftime.

Andrew Wiggins was 56% from the field against Puerto Rico. (Photo: FIBA)

Andrew Wiggins was 56% from the field against Puerto Rico. (Photo: FIBA)

Canada would turn in a monster third frame, outscoring Puerto Rico 35-16. Wiggins was in on it, and led his team at game-end with 19 points including eight of 13 free throws. “They had their little run in the first half, thankfully we had a big run in the second half,” said Wiggins in a TSN interview.

Three Canadians had 15 points in the game; Joseph through his intensity, Nik Stauskas made three long balls, and Kelly Olynyk added nine boards.

Nik Stauskas dropped three of the five three-pointers he attempted. (Photo: FIBA)

Nik Stauskas dropped three of the five three-pointers he attempted. (Photo: FIBA)

Interesting: While Cory Joseph was instrumental in starting the turnaround, former CIS-star Phil Scrubb played almost the entire third quarter. If that’s not an indication of depth, nothing is. “I think the team needs me most for defence and giving Cory a break on that end,” said Scrubb to TSN, with likeable humility.

Canada’s roster for FIBA Americas

Puerto Rico’s Jose Barea, who plays for the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks, led his side with 20 points and seven assists. Canada shot 46% from the field but really made it happen at the free throw line, hitting 33 of 44 for 75%. Puerto Rico was 43% on shooting, and were eventually out-gunned 43% to 34% in favour of Canada from beyond the arc. (Which by the way is about 3’3″ smaller for international basketball).

The second round match-ups will be announced later Friday night, at the completion of Mexico vs. Uruguay. Canada is second in Group B behind Argentina, and this matters for seeding, the full standings are here. All teams get a day off on Saturday, with Canada playing four games in as many days.

The top-four teams at the end of the second round will advance to semifinals. With Brazil out of Group A, only the tournament finalists will qualify for Rio 2016.

Thursday, Sept. 3 – Canada 82-62 Venezuela 

Canada won their second game in a row with an 82-62 victory over Venezuela which improves their record to 2-1 at FIBA Americas in Mexico City.

Nik Stauskas led Canada with 16 points on the strength of four three-pointers. Cory Joseph was admirably helpful in getting the ball up the court. Kelly Olynyk turned in 14 points and eight rebounds. The Canadians now have five points in Group B, keeping them in good position with one game remaining in their first phase round-robin. That will tomorrow against Puerto Rico.

Kelly Olynyk (Photo: FIBA)

Kelly Olynyk (Photo: FIBA)

Canada led from early in the first quarter, and the only slight concern was late when Venezuela cut the lead to 11, before eventually falling away. More noticeably, Venezuela was scrappy,  producing many ‘hard fouls’ according to Olynyk.

A black spot for Canada was an ‘unsportsmanlike’ (FIBA’s version of flagrant) foul on power forward Dwight Powell in the first half. The 24-year-old tumbled hard, was down a good number of minutes, and would not return to the game. Afterwards head coach Jay Triano had no update on Powell but did offer a reason for Venezuela’s aggressions, “We’ve got a target on our backs and they’re going to test us, they know we’re a good basketball team,” Triano told TSN.

Head coach Jay Triano (Photo: FIBA)

Head coach Jay Triano (Photo: FIBA)

“We were able to get out into the open court a little more because of our defence,” commented Cory Joseph on the connection between both sides of the court, “That’s how we gotta play we’re young, athletic, we got a lot of talent on this team,” he said in his television interview. He had 10 points, seven rebounds, and five assists.

Including the second phase, where crossover games are contested against Group A opponents, Canada will play eight games in nine days. If they end up in the top four they’ll get a break day before the semis and perhaps, the final. Both finalists qualify for Rio 2016, unless Brazil is one, in which case the bronze medallists also go.

Canada’s round-robin schedule:
Friday, September 4 vs. Puerto Rico at 7:00 pm ET on TSN4/5

94-87 LOSS Tuesday, September 1 vs. Argentina
101-59 WIN Wednesday, September 2 vs. Cuba
Thursday, September 3 vs. Venezuela

Wednesday, Sept. 2: Canada 101-59 Cuba

Head coach Jay Triano said he wanted his Canadians to ‘play free’ today and they made the adjustment, beating Cuba 101-59 to earn their first win at FIBA Americas.

The victory amends for a first-game loss at Argentinian hands (or just Luis Scola’s) last night. It also gives Canada a very good chance of moving to the second phase, since the Cubans are now 0-3 in Group B in a first phase round-robin that eliminates the last-place team.

Nik Stauskas (Photo: FIBA)

Nik Stauskas had six rebounds to go with his 15 points. (Photo: FIBA)

Wearing all red Canada looked on the whole more like the the pros they are. Quick, fluid, and most of all, connected. They scored 13 points before Cuba managed two, then led by 20 points (30-10) after one quarter and by 30 points (49-19) 10-minutes later at halftime.

Triano used all 12 dressed players for the second night in a row. And they all scored. Both Andrew Wiggins and Nik Stauskas led the red with 15 points and Canada shot 48% from the field as a team. With no NBA players, Cuba’s Jasiel Rivero had 20 points for his team, part of a dismal 28% shooting. “I thought we were more focused and we were able to play all 12 players and balance the minutes. With four games in four days we felt that that was important,” said Triano.

Robert Sacre (left) had five points and three rebounds in 14 minutes off the pine for Canada.

Robert Sacre (left) had five points and three rebounds in 14 minutes off the pine for Canada. (Photo: FIBA)

For the final 20-minutes (FIBA quarters are only 10-minutes long) Canada contained any hope of a Cuban redemption and crossed the 100-point mark on a Melvin Ejim free throw with 1:27 left. No other team has broken 100 points at this tournament.

With one Group B game left on Wednesday night, Canada sits in second place with three points (1-1) behind Argentina, who were off today and have four (2-0).

Canada’s round-robin schedule:
Thursday, September 3 vs. Venezuela at 7:00 pm ET on TSN4
Friday, September 4 vs. Puerto Rico at 7:00 pm ET on TSN4/5

94-87 LOSS Tuesday, September 1 vs. Argentina
101-59 WIN Wednesday, September 2 vs. Cuba

Kelly Olynyk, a member of the Boston Celtics, started and played 16 minutes nabbing six points.

Kelly Olynyk, a member of the Boston Celtics, started and played 16 minutes nabbing six points. (Photo: FIBA)

Tuesday, Sept. 1: Canada 87-94 Argentina

Argentina’s Luis Scola put up a massive 35-points, one for every year he’s been alive, dumping the Canadians 94-87 at the 2015 FIBA Americas Championship.

Both Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett had 13-points for Canada in their team’s tournament opener, while Argentina improved to 2-and-0 with four-points and the Group B lead. Canada gets one point for the loss.

The Argentines received 20-points of bench support from Nicolas Laprovittola. Kelly Olynyk started for Canada, coming off a knee injury, and led his team with 10 rebounds while attempting to guard Scola, “We didn’t do a great job on him tonight unfortunately,” said Olynyk.

Luis Scola ducks around Canada's Kelly Olynyk. Scola had 13 rebounds. (Photo: FIBA)

Luis Scola ducks around Canada’s Kelly Olynyk. Scola had 13 rebounds. (Photo: FIBA)

Canada’s starters were Cory Joseph and Andrew Wiggins, no surprise, plus Nik Stauskas, Anthony Bennett, and Olynyk. The Canadians drove hard early, knowing Argentina had played last night. In his white jersey Cory Joseph shot off the nerves with two-straight baskets as the first Canadian points. Even Kelly Olynyk ran basket-to-basket for a score, and Canada led 20-17 after 10-minutes.

While Andrew Wiggins is the future for Canada Basketball, Luis Scola has been his country's anchor for some time. (Photo: FIBA)

While Andrew Wiggins is the future for Canada Basketball, Luis Scola has been his country’s anchor for some time. (Photo: FIBA)

Canada held the lead until halfway through the second quarter when a six-point Argentine run put them up 39-36. At this point bench players were well in play. At half-time, former-CIS star Phil Scrubb had given Canada five points off the pine, but Nicolas Laprovittola had dropped in 13 for his team. After twenty minutes it was clear the game would be a battle and Argentina led 46-42 heading to the locker room.

Luis Scola has an Olympic gold medal with the Argentinian national team. (Photo: FIBA)

Luis Scola has an Olympic gold medal with the Argentinian national team. (Photo: FIBA)

Replay a strong start for Canada to commence the second half. A seven-point run put them back in front 49-46. Again, Argentina would tie it and Luis Scola would remain the problem for Canada. Scola had 33 of his 35 points in the first three quarters. The Canadians struggled to gain a scoring rhythm all game. Head coach Jay Triano and his squad will now have to focus on Wednesday’s game against Cuba, “I just want us to play free, I think we were real hesitant today,” he said.