Kelly Olynyk holds the ball against a Panama opponent,FIBA

Canada crushes Panama to move a step closer to 2023 FIBA World Cup

With a dominating win over Panama on Monday, Canada (8-0) is on the verge of clinching a spot in the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup.

Canada’s 106-50 victory in Panama City kept the team undefeated through eight games in the FIBA Americas qualification tournament. It was the team’s second game of the second round, after a 99-87 win over Argentina on Thursday.

They sit in first place in Group E with four games left to go. The top three teams in the group are guaranteed a World Cup berth.

READ: Hoop Dreams: Canada’s road to the 2023 FIBA World Cup

Canada’s starting five of Melvin Ejim, Kevin Pangos, Kelly Olynyk, Dwight Powell and Phil Scrubb came out on fire against Panama (2-6). Head coach Nick Nurse’s squad went on a remarkable 16-0 run to start the game, and were up 33-7 after the first quarter.

The visitors kept their foot on the gas, building a 64-25 lead by halftime. The second half was predominantly an opportunity for Canada to showcase its impressive depth.

Even without Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Cory Joseph or Nickeil Alexander-Walker making the trip, Canada had five players hit double digits in scoring. Olynyk led all scorers with 18 points, plus six rebounds and five assists. Pangos added 17 while Ejim and Zach Edey had 15 apiece.

The Canadians could actually have clinched qualification on Monday night had The Bahamas defeated Argentina. But they’ll get their next chance on November 10, at home against Venezuela.

Game 1 (Aug. 25): Canada 99, Argentina 87

In front of a raucous home crowd in Victoria, Team Canada defeated Argentina in FIBA Basketball World Cup qualifying on Thursday night.

It was Canada’s first of six games in the second round of the FIBA Americas qualification tournament for next summer’s World Cup. Building on a perfect 6-0 record in the first round, Canada sits first in Group E. The top three teams in the six-team group are guaranteed spots in the 2023 World Cup.

Against Argentina, head coach Nick Nurse rolled out a starting five of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Melvin Ejim, Dwight Powell and Kelly Olynyk.

It was a fast-paced, back-and-forth start. But Canada held firm with strong defence and headed into halftime with a 52-39 lead.

The home side’s lead ballooned to as much as 23 after the break. But Argentina clawed it back to a 15-point gap by the end of the third quarter. To make things trickier, Alexander-Walker fouled out with a few minutes to play in the third quarter.

The South Americans kept fighting, jangling some nerves in the fourth quarter. But with about six minutes left, an emphatic shot block by Gilgeous-Alexander on Nicolas Laprovittola symbolized the rugged defence that helped lift Canada to victory.

Gilgeous-Alexander finished as Canada’s top scorer with 23 points, going 8-for-19 from the field and 3-for-6 on three-pointers. Olynyk chipped in with 21 points, 11 of which were from the free throw line.