Canada advances to World Cup quarterfinals, qualifies for Olympics with win over Spain
For the first time in 23 years, Canada’s men’s basketball team has clinched a spot in the Olympics.
Staring down a 12-point fourth-quarter deficit to World No. 1 Spain, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Dillon Brooks and the rest of Canada’s squad delivered a crunch-time performance for the ages, sealing one of Canada’s biggest wins in program history and a berth at Paris 2024.
After dropping their opening second round matchup to Brazil on Friday, Canada was facing the ultimate test: a win-or-go home versus the defending World Cup champion Spain.
Not only was a spot in the FIBA quarterfinals on the line, but with Dominican Republic, Brazil, and Puerto Rico all losing earlier in the day, it opened up a qualification spot for Canada as the top two teams from either North and South America gain an automatic berth.
With the U.S. already having clinched, that spot was there for the taking. Win and you’re in, lose and the path becomes a lot tougher.
Spain represented the toughest test for Canada thus far at the FIBA World Cup, but Canada knew they could compete having beat Spain 85-80 in an exhibition matchup leading up to the tournament.
Spain’s combination of size, skill, and experience posed a problem for Canada who looked undersized from the start. Despite an early rebounding disadvantage, R.J. Barrett and Lu Dort provided some offence. SGA was quiet early, as he was being guarded by a revered defender in Alberto Diaz.
Spain was able to separate from Canada in the second quarter thanks to their ball movement and increased tempo. They led by 10 after the first half, 48-38.
Canada showed some fight to start the second half as they erased the deficit to take a 55-52 lead at the 4:44 mark. The defensive intensity increased, and they were able to score in the paint with buckets from R.J. Barrett, Dillon Brooks, and Dwight Powell.
Despite weathering the storm, Spain fired back with a run of their own led by Santiago Aldama. Spain took a 12-point lead into the fourth.
In a fourth quarter that will go down in Canadian basketball history, Dillon Brooks sparked the offence with two threes to cut into the lead.
They kept the game close with smothering defensive stands, as Spain went scoreless from three-and-a-half minutes down the stretch. Despite some turnovers and missed threes from Canada, an SGA and-one cut the lead to 78-77 with 1:51 left.
Dillon Brooks, never scared of the moment, knocked down a huge three to tie it at 80 with 1:19 left.
In what ended up being the difference, Shai’s smooth stepback from the top of the key gave Canada their first lead of the quarter.
With a massive defensive stand and four clutch free throws by SGA, Canada needed Alex Abrines’ deep three to misfire as regulation expired.
For the first time since Sydney 2000, Canada is headed to the Olympic Games. It’s also Canada’s first quarterfinal appearance at the World Cup since 1994.
Canada outscored Spain 27-13 in the fourth. SGA and Brooks combined to score 24 of those points.
It’s Canada’s first World Cup win in program history after trailing by 10 points at half, and the first win versus Spain since 1974.
Spain had not lost an elimination game in the World Cup since 2014 –https://twitter.com/CanBball/status/1698342643154010326 a quarterfinal loss to France two tournaments ago.
Canada will matchup with Slovenia in the quarterfinals, led by NBA star Luka Doncic in what will be a must-see matchup between him and SGA on Wednesday at 8:30 a.m. EST.
Canada drops opening second round matchup to Brazil
In what had been a perfect start to the FIBA World Cup, Canada’s back is now against the wall after opening the second round with a loss to Brazil.
In a low-scoring, physical affair, Canada’s offense went ice cold in the fourth quarter, as Brazil came back from 10 points down to win, 69-65.
A pair of clutch lay-ups from Brazil’s point guard, Yago Santos, proved to be the difference as Canada couldn’t get a basket down the stretch. Brazil outscored Canada 23-13 in the final quarter.
Friday was the first day of second round action to determine which teams will advance into the quarterfinals in Pasay, Philipines.
Brazil went 2-1 in the opening group stage, with wins versus Côte d’Ivoire and Iran, and a loss to Spain.
Brazil was Canada’s achilles heel in the 2022 AmeriCup, losing twice in the tournament to Brazil, including a 10-point semifinal loss that eliminated them from contention. However, only one player on Canada’s current roster (Trae Bell-Haynes) played in the tournament.
Brazil is now 6-0 all-time against Canada in the FIBA World Cup.
Similar to games against France and Latvia, Canada got off to a slow start. They scored just 13 points in the first quarter on 4/11 shooting from the field to trail by three points.
Lu Dort, after being sidelined for two games with an injury, made his return and was a major contributor for Canada. He knocked down two threes in the opening half, and finished with 17 points on 6-for-11 shooting.
Despite a slow start from Canada’s leader, SGA towards the end of the second half including a nifty scoop shot to get the lead to 10 points at halftime.
The story of the first half was Canada’s defence, as they held Brazil to 27 points.
However, Canada wasn’t able to break away from Brazil in the third quarter like they had against their first round opponents.
A Lucas Dias buzzer-beater three and technical foul free throw cut the Canada lead to six heading into the fourth.
Canada’s offence completely halted in the fourth quarter as Brazil’s interior defence was allowing nothing inside. Brazil out-rebounded Canada 43-37 in the game, and had some huge offensive rebounds to allow for extra possessions.
Canada held a two-point lead with 3:11 left in the quarter and failed to score a field goal for the remainder of the game, outside of R.J. Barrett’s three-pointer with one second remaining.
With Latvia’s win over Spain earlier in the day, all four teams in Group L hold a record of 3-1. This sets up a win-or-go-home scenario on Sunday, as Canada will need to beat the No. 1 ranked team in the world, Spain, to advance.
Canada vs. Spain will square off for a trip to the quarterfinal round on Sunday at 9:30 a.m. EST.