Canada guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (2) dribbles the ball against Latvia guard Arturs Kurucs (47) and guard Arturs Zagars (55) during the Basketball World CupAP Photo/Tatan Syuflana
AP Photo/Tatan Syuflana

Canada sweeps first round at FIBA World Cup with win over Latvia

Canada responded to a tough challenge from a streaky Latvian team on Tuesday at the FIBA World Cup in Jakarta, Indonesia.

With a 101-75 win, Canada finishes atop Group H and is headed to the second round. It’s the first time in the program’s history they’ve won their opening group outright at the FIBA World Cup.

Latvia, making their World Cup debut in 2023, has been one of the surprises of the tournament thanks to their upset win over No. 5 France on Sunday.

The win eliminated France from the tournament and ensured both Canada and Latvia would advance to the second round. However, results from the opening round carry over to round two, meaning the squads were prepared to battle at full strength on Tuesday.

No.29-ranked Latvia came into the game shooting a blistering 46 per cent from three as a team, as Canada struggled to match the intensity of their opponents.

Latvia made five first-quarter threes as they jumped out to an 11-point lead to start the game. Canada started out ice cold on offence, missing 13 of their first 17 shots.

Latvia continued to hold a sizable lead for most of the second quarter before some big threes from Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and Kelly Olynyk finally fell for Canada.

Canada took its first lead since the opening minute with an R.J. Barrett lay-up as time expired on the first half.

Despite shooting below 40 per cent from the field, Canada led 43-42.

Similar to the story versus France, the game swung in Canada’s favour thanks to a SGA third-quarter takeover.

Shai scored 16 points on 7 of 9 shooting from the field in the period. Whether from the three, mid-range, or at the rim, the Latvians simply could not stop SGA.

Canada opened up a 10-point lead as their defence forced Latvia into an 0-8 mark from three in the quarter.

In the fourth, Canada opened up the floodgates thanks to more buckets from SGA, R.J. Barrett, and two big threes from Team Canada vet Phil Scrubb.

Canada outscored Latvia by 24 in the second half, winning by a final score of 101-75.

SGA finished with 27 points, six rebounds, and six assists. R.J. Barrett added 22 points with four threes, while Olynyk added 15, and Alexander-Walker had 14 off the bench.

With the win, Canada is off to the second round which starts on Friday.

Canada and Latvia will be matched with the top two teams from Group G, playing for two spots in the quarterfinals. With Spain having clinched, and Iran eliminated, the winner of Brazil vs. Côte d’Ivoire will determine who advances to eventually play Canada.

Canada sets FIBA record for team assists in win over Lebanon

Coming off of one of the great wins in program history with their opening win over France, Canada didn’t hold back against Lebanon to move to 2-0 at the FIBA World Cup in Jakarta, Indonesia.

They recorded 44 assists, a new FIBA World Cup record for most team assists in a game.

Nine players ended the game in double figures for Canada, as they shot a remarkable 71.4 per cent from the field, and hit 18 of their 30 three-point attempts.

After starting the game slow against France, Canada didn’t have the same issues against No. 43-ranked Lebanon.

They jumped out to a 29-13 lead after the first quarter, shooting 63 per cent from the field.

It only got better as they increased their lead to 30 by the four-minute mark of the second quarter, and ended the first half with a spectacular step-back three from Dillon Brooks.

Trae Bell-Haynes knocked down four threes in the first half for Canada, and finished the game with 15 points and eight assists off the bench.

Canada used all of the players avaialble on its roster in the win. Some notable contributors included 17 points from R.J. Barrett, and 13 points from Melvin Ejim. Four players finished with 12 points.

Lu Dort was ruled out before the game due to soreness.

Canada moves to 2-0 to sit atop Group H as they await the result of Latvia and France. They will take on Latvia in what will be a crucial game for both teams. The significance of the game, and seeding implications for Round Two, will be known once the result of Latvia and France becomes available, but Canada is in a great position to qualify for the second round thanks to the 2-0 start.

Tip-off will be at 9:30 a.m. EST on Tuesday.

Canada opens FIBA World Cup with statement win over No.5-ranked France

Canada has opened up the FIBA World Cup with a stunning 95-65 win over No. 5 ranked France at the FIBA World Cup in Jakarta, Phillipines.

Even the most optimistic Canadian fans couldn’t have seen a win like this over a team like France coming.

Leading by three at half, Canada dominated every aspect of the second half, bolstered by lockdown perimeter defence, and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s spectacular performance on offense.

Early on it was a game of runs. France punched first with a quick 7-0 run to start the game, before Canada responded with a 14-2 run of their own, and back to France who responded with a 12-0 run.

Evan Fournier was the story of the first half for France, as the 10-year NBA vet came out with the hot hand, scoring 19 first-half points for France.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (SGA) struggled early as he adjusted to the physicality of France’s defence, missing his first five shots. Canada also struggled from the outside, making just two of their first 12 attempts from three.

“We started out a little bit helter-skelter, I feel like we were so ancy to be here and play with each other,” Dillon Brooks told Sportsnet following the game.

Despite the struggles, Canada competed and defended at a high level, and took a three-point lead at halftime, thanks in large part to solid play from Kelly Olynyk, and bench contributions from Nickeil Alexander-Walker.

Everything changed in the third quarter. Canada outscored France 25-8, as SGA completely took over the game on offense, mixing it up with drives, mid-range baskets, and a deep three.

Defensively, Canada forced turnovers and missed shots to allow them to speed the game up. France finished the game with 17 turnovers, leading to 20 points for Canada off of those turnovers.

“We pride ourselves on defending, on getting consecutive stops, and we had like 10 consecutive stops in a row,” Brooks said. “The outcome to that is being up by 20, 30 (points).”

Gilgeous-Alexander finished with 27 points, 13 rebounds, and six assists. Olynyk added 18 points, plus Dillon Brooks and Nickeil Alexander-Walker each had 12 points.

“We wanted to come out here and play to our identity,” Gilgeous-Alexander said following the game. “We use our defence to ignite our offence, we get stops, get out and rebound, run, get in our transition – and then we’re pretty good.

The win makes the path to the second round a whole lot easier for Canada, as the two remaining opponents (Latvia, Lebanon) are much less revered than the French national team.

France, who won bronze at the World Cup in 2019, and silver at the Olympics in Tokyo 2020, is not accustomed to losses of this nature. With the 30-point win, Canada delivers a huge message to the rest of the field.

Canada will take on Lebanon in their next matchup on Sunday, at 5:45 a.m. EST.