Canada (1-0) vs. China (0-0)
When: Wednesday, June, 30, 7:05 p.m. ET
Where: Victoria Memorial Arena, Victoria, B.C.
Where things stand:
One down: Canada heads into Wednesday's match up against China with a 1-0 record in the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament after opening group play with a 97-91 victory against Greece. Canada’s victory came behind a 23-point effort from Andrew Wiggins and 22 points from RJ Barrett, while veteran Dwight Powell added 14 points and Nickeil Alexander-Walker scored 18 points.
Though Canada struggled to slow Greece in the first half, and trailed by four at the break, things turned in the third quarter as Canada outscored Greece 28-21 and didn’t look back.
“We knew it was going to be a big learning experience, our first game together against a very, very good team,” head coach Nick Nurse said. “I thought we did well to hang in there in the first half because [Greece] were playing very well, shooting very well. Guys did a great job of hanging in, making some adjustments. I thought our effort was really solid. I’m certainly very happy with the result, no doubt, but most happy that we kind of learned a lot about who we are and where we’re going next.”
Hanging in: One of those things that Canada learned is that Senior Men’s National Team first-timers Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Luguentz Dort are ready to roll when their names get called. In the first half against Greece, Alexander-Walker kept Canada close as Greece was raining threes, scoring 14 of his 18 points in the second quarter. In the second half, as Canada was taking control in the third quarter, it was Dort’s defensive pressure and energy.
Leading the way: Andrew Wiggins had a huge return to the court for Team Canada in Tuesday’s win. Playing in his first game for the National Team since 2015, Wiggins led the team in scoring, minutes played, field goals, and three-point field goals made. Finishing with 23 points in 34 minutes, Wiggins shot 9-for-16 from the floor and 3-for-6 from beyond the arc while adding six rebounds, two assists and a steal.
Things to know heading into Day 2 of the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament, Victoria:
One day at a time: Though Canada will be entering Wednesday’s match up fresh off a victory against Greece, head coach Nick Nurse is making sure his players understand that wins in this tournament will not come easy, especially for a team that is still becoming familiar with one another. “We’re not under any illusions about how good these teams are that we’re playing,” Nurse said. “[We understand] how experienced they are, what traditions they have, et cetera. It never entered our minds that it wasn’t going to be really hard.”
For a team that came into the tournament without getting to play any prep games against outside competition, having to rely instead on intrasquad scrimmages during training camp, getting to come back against an experienced team like Greece on the first day of the tournament is exactly the kind of learning experience Nurse was pleased to have his team gain.
“We talked about how we had to keep playing [after the first half]” Nurse said, “Hang in there, keep playing, learn, play a little harder, play a little more together. I’m glad of the way they bounced back through it. It should help us, it’s part of our learning experience.
From deep: Canada shot 10-for-37 from beyond the arc in Tuesday’s victory against Greece. The Canadians had seven different players make at least one three, led by Wiggins who finished the game 3-for-6 from deep, and Alexander-Walker, who made two of five attempts.
Unstoppable late: Barrett finished Tuesday’s game with 22 points on 8-for-14 field goals to go along with five rebounds and three assists. While Barrett was solid through the first three quarters, it was in the fourth where Barrett did the most of his damage, scoring 12 of his 22 points in the final quarter as Greece had little answer to slow him. The 21-year-old who just finished his second season in the NBA with the New York Knicks opened the quarter by assisting on a Mychal Mulder three-pointer and continued helping Canada build its lead from there.
Where to watch: Fans in Canada can catch all of the action streaming live and free on CBC Gem and DAZN.