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Canada basketball
Holly MacKenzie

Canada Senior Men's National Team kick off pre-Olympics exhibition schedule, fall to USA 86-72 in Las Vegas

LAS VEGAS, Nev. (July 11, 2024) - The Canadian Senior Men’s National Team officially kicked off their pre-Olympics exhibition schedule with an 86-72 loss to Team USA in Las Vegas on Wednesday. This was the first of three exhibition games the team will play before arriving in Paris to kick off their Olympics campaign.

RJ Barrett led Canada with 12 points on six field-goal attempts, while Dillon Brooks and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 10 points apiece. Kelly Olynyk added nine points for a Canadian team that shot 34 percent while giving up 51 percent shooting to the Americans.

Anthony Edwards led the USA with 13 points, while Stephen Curry added 12 points and Anthony Davis finished with a 10-point, 11-rebound double-double in 19 minutes.

Both teams connected on seven three-pointers in the game, with Canada making 7-of-33 attempts and the U.S. shooting 7-of-23 from deep.

“Getting to our spots and getting quality shots was one of our goals,” Team Canada head coach Jordi Fernández said. “We’re a very good team when we touch the paint and reverse the ball, we’ve got pretty good catch-and-shoot threes. [To have] 33 [attempts from three] is probably not terrible in FIBA, if we’re able to get 40-plus [attempts], 30 of them have to be catch and shoot. Our guys just were not in the right spot.”

Both teams elected to limit the minutes of their starters in the first exhibition game for both programs. Gilgeous-Alexander’s 19 minutes were a team-high for Canada while Bam Adebayo’s 21 minutes led the USA.

“If you look at the way that we played with the minutes, it was like 3-5 groups, which it’s not going to be like this [in Paris],” Fernández said. “Right now our plan is to get in shape, to get there in elite condition, but our purpose and the way we did certain things [tonight], I’m not happy with right now and I’m sure when I watch the film, I’m still not going to be happy.”

Despite the loss, Canada got off to a solid start, taking advantage of early turnovers and missed shots from the U.S. to take an early 10-point lead on a three-pointer from Barrett with 5:36 remaining in the first quarter.  The United States had eight turnovers in the quarter as the Canadians held a 21-14 advantage after the opening 10 minutes.

The U.S. settled into a groove to start the second, opening the quarter on a 7-0 run to tie the game at 21 points until Trey Lyles scored Canada’s first points of the quarter with 7:15 remaining in the half. A layup from Joel Embiid tied the game at 23 points, and then a jumper and a three-pointer from Devin Booker made it 28-23 USA with 6:15 remaining.

Brooks scored while being fouled by Embiid and made a free throw to complete the three-point play and get Canada within a basket, 28-26, until a layup from Jrue Holiday. A pull-up from Gilgeous-Alexander again brought Canada within two, 30-28, with 4:05 remaining, but the USA closed the half strong and a layup from Tatum with seven seconds remaining allowed the Americans to take an eight-point lead, 41-33 into the half.

“I just did not like the way we played, regardless of the score,” Fernández said. “That’s not who we are, how we want to play, who we want to be. In the first 10 days of [camp], we’ve done much better things. Credit to this [U.S.] team, which is a very good team. It’s not about the win or the loss, but it’s the way we played and that’s not who we want to be.”

Barrett scored the first points of the second half with a corner three, but Curry responded with one of his own as he went on a personal 9-1 run to extend USA’s lead to 13 points until a three-pointer from Jamal Murray with 7:43 remaining in the third. After another three, this time from Gilgeous-Alexander, Canada was within seven, 50-43, with 7:10 remaining in the third. A dunk inside for Barrett made it a five-point game, but the Americans responded with buckets from Embiid and LeBron James.

After an unsportsmanlike foul was called on Embiid for connecting with Dwight Powell’s chin, Powell made a pair of free throws and Canada retained possession. Embiid fouled out of the game when he fouled Barrett on the next possession.

“You saw [Powell] had to ask for a sub, that just tells you how hard he plays,” Fernández said. “He’s one of our team captains. That’s what you get from him. The way he plays, 10, 15, 20 minutes, he’s going to play to the minute and he did a good job.”

Canada was within six, 60-54, with 3:15 remaining in the third after a reverse layup from Nickeil Alexander-Walker that was assisted by Olynyk, but the Americans pulled away to end the third as a three-pointer from Edwards to beat the buzzer gave the U.S. a 69-54 advantage heading into the fourth.

Canada played its second-unit throughout the fourth as both teams experimented with lineups over the final 10 minutes and the US maintained their lead to take the victory.

Thursday’s exhibition was the first time that Jamal Murray and Gilgeous-Alexander got to share the floor with the Senior Men’s team.

“I like the way they can play both off the ball and on the ball so that is not going to be a problem,” Fernández said of his two star guards. “Shai, Jamal, all these guys in the first group, they're going to be good because they’re very, very good players.”

The team will now head to Blois, France to continue training before an exhibition game against France on July 19.

“I think this time is going to be good for us to come closer together and just work,” Barrett said. “I think we have really good potential. We have really good players and obviously a great coaching staff. I’m really excited to get down there and see what we can do.”

Like Barrett, Fernández is ready to get back on the court.

“The one thing with these guys is they’ve worked really hard every day,” Fernández said. “It’s okay if you make mistakes. Like today, our purpose, we made certain mistakes, we didn’t handle the switching well, but we’re going to come back and we’re going to work and I believe and trust that they will and then the next day, we’ll be better.

“You go to a different country, you stick together the whole time and that builds chemistry,” Fernández continued. “These guys always have a good time hanging out, playing cards, everything. I think at the end of the day, this is what we need, a way to bond and build that glue that is going to make us be a better team, every day, day-by-day. [We're] excited to get there and excited to keep building from there.”