The Canadian men’s basketball team failed to follow in the women’s footsteps, losing their gold medal matchup against Brazil 86-71 to settle for silver.
The silver is Canada’s first Pan Am medal in men’s basketball. Coming off a huge upset over the USA in Friday night’s semifinal, the Canadians tried to use that momentum to carry them to gold. Despite a slow start, Canada made it interesting near the end of the game, but just couldn’t overpower the strong Brazilians.
Canada started the game with a lineup of Anthony Bennett, Andrew Nicholson and Aaron Doornekamp up front, with Carl English and Junior Cadougan running the back court. The two teams were neck and neck to start the game, with the score tied 11-11 halfway through the first quarter. Brazil’s defence tightened up in the second half of the quarter, helping them jump out to a 26-13 lead by the end of the first.
Brazil didn’t let up in the second quarter, extending their lead to 36-20 at the halfway mark. The Brazilians used their interior size to force Canada into tough shots. On the other flip side, Canada’s defence seemed lost, missing defensive assignments and leaving guys wide open for shots regularly. At halftime, Brazil found themselves up 48-29.
Bennett did his best to keep Canada in it early, scoring 10 first half points and adding 6 rebounds. Fellow NBAer Nicholson dropped 9 points in the first two quarters, but was also called for 3 fouls in the opening 20 minutes (in international basketball you foul out of the game at 5).
Canada continued to struggle to start the third quarter, trailing 58-37 halfway through the third. The crowd tried its best to get the Canadians back into the game, cheering and screaming as much as possible with the team down by more than 20. Canada responded, with several great defensive stops and big buckets to end the third quarter, managing to cut the lead to 67-54 by the end of the third.
Canada kept the pedal to the metal to start the final quarter, cutting it to a two possession game of 69-63 at the 7:22 mark of the fourth. The crowd reached new heights of excitement as Canada kept chipping away at the Brazilian lead. With every basket Canada scored, the electric crowd got louder and louder.
At the midway point of the fourth quarter, Canada trailed by 10 with the score at 74-64. A big final push would be needed to power them to gold. Unfortunately that push would never come as Brazil began running through the Canadian defence again and Canada couldn’t keep up offensively. The Brazilians would eventually take the game 86-71 to win the gold medal.
Bennett finished the game with 18 points and 9 rebounds. Jamal Murray, who is only 18 years-old, came off the bench to score 12 second-half points. It was Murray who led the charge during Canada’s run in the fourth quarter.
Coming into Toronto 2015, Canada had never been considered a basketball powerhouse, even at Pan Ams. That changed in a big way this Games, with Canada taking top spot in women’s tournament (the country’s first Pan Am basketball gold medal). Sadly the men couldn’t match them, but still had a very successful tournament including an upset victory of the USA in the semifinal and topping it off with the country’s first ever men’s basketball medal at Pan Ams.