A place fans of the Canadian Men’s National Basketball team have been many times — a win or go home game to make the FIBA World Cup quarter final, PLUS the chance to qualify for the Olympics. In the past, Canada may have lost both those chances. Not in this era of Canadian hoops.
In a game that came down to the WIRE, Canada won. They beat the World no.1 ranked, FIBA World Cup defending Champion team Spain in a gritty game. The team will now head into the Knockout stage of the FIBA World Cup AND they have officially qualified for the 2024 Paris Olympic Games. The Canadian Men haven’t been to the Olympics for basketball since 2000 — and they did it.
It was on the backs of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Dillon Brooks, and RJ Barrett that the team squeaked out a 88-85 win against Spain Sunday morning. They trailed by as much as 12 points at certain points of the game, had a poor showing offensively until the fourth quarter, and were deep in foul trouble early on. The resilience of this team really shined as they fought back to overcome a skilled Spanish roster.
Despite the relief of an Olympic berth, the fight is not over yet. In fact, Team Canada’s biggest tests are ahead of them now has they head into a series of do or die games to determine their placing at the World Cup. They are two wins away from at least medalling, and three away from topping the podium for the first time in program history.
Their first test comes Wednesday morning in the quarterfinal, where they will face Slovenia and Luka Doncic — yeah that Luka Doncic. Slovenia started their World Cup journey by topping Group F over Georgia, Cape Verde, and Venezuela. They then moved on to Group K where they placed second behind Germany, knocking Australia and Georgia out of the tournament. They have a 4-1 record at the World Cup, their one loss coming from Germany.
The main threat of the Slovenian team is obviously Luka Doncic. The NBA Dallas Mavericks star has been suiting up for his national team this summer but is rumoured to be facing injury he sustained during the NBA season. Both Doncic and the team assure that he is okay, but he did look to be somewhat suffering in the team’s last match over the weekend. Knowing his role on the Dallas Mavericks, the team will be monitoring him closely and will likely have to make a decision on his availability if the injury gets worse.
Other than Luka, the Slovenian team doesn’t have much of an offensive threat. In their loss against Germany, Luka scored 23 points. Other than that, only one other player was in double digits on the Slovenian side. In their win against Australia, Luka was the highest scoring player with 19 points — much lower than his NBA average.
If Canada can bring out their premier defence, they have a good chance of slowing down an already sort of slow Slovenian offence. Trap Luka and you’re golden.
On Canada’s side, one of their woes in the tournament has been slow starts and poor offence. Canada needs a quick start, and to improve their three point shooting range — especially against a guy like Doncic who can shoot from anywhere and get hot quickly.
Another key point for Canada will be to avoid foul trouble. Their last two games (which were their closest ones of the tournament) saw Dillon Brooks get into early foul trouble and have to sit early on in the game. He was (along with SGA) the deciding factor in Canada even getting this far, due to his play in the Spain game. He will have to avoid those fouls if he is going to make an impact again in the Slovenia game.
On the other side of the court, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander will have to DRAW as many fouls as he can. His key in Canada’s comeback against Spain was getting to the free throw line in the fourth quarter. That, along with a strong offensive start from the team, will help Canada’s chances a lot more.
a performance for the ages— Canada Basketball (@CanBball) September 5, 2023
Shai led the way with a 30-piece, including a go-ahead stepback jumper late, to help Canada punch their ticket to Paris, earning @ToyotaCanada Drive of the Game honours#DOTG | #FIBAWC pic.twitter.com/hJDpY3PSfL
If Canada wins their quarterfinal match against Slovenia, they will face Serbia in the semi-final. Serbia won strong over Lithuania this morning 87-68. On the other side of the bracket, the United States beat Italy 100-63 this morning and await wither Latvia or Germany for their semi-final match. If Canada reaches the Finals, they could face Team USA, Team Germany, or Team Latvia.
A loss tomorrow would mean Canada is kicked out of the tournament, BUT if they lose in the semi-final, they would still play a bronze medal match.
There is a lot on the line tomorrow, but if the last game taught fans of this Canadian basketball team anything, it’s to trust them.
You can watch Canada vs Slovenia compete in the FIBA World Cup quarterfinals tomorrow morning at 8:30am ET / 5:30am PT on Sportsnet.