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Canada basketball
Holly MacKenzie

Senior Men's National Team falls to Germany in exhibition opener ahead of World Cup

BERLIN, GERMANY (August 9, 2023) - Canada's Senior Men's National Team dropped an 86-81 decision to Germany in the team’s first exhibition game ahead of the FIBA Men’s Basketball World Cup 2023.

Luguentz Dort led Canada with a team-high 14 points, while RJ Barrett scored 12 points. Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Kelly Olynyk added 11 points apiece. Germany was led by an 18-point performance from Franz Wagner and 17 points from Daniel Theis. 

Canada shook off a slow start and a 16-point halftime deficit to come back and push Germany until the final seconds in a second half that showcased the defensive identity head coach Jordi Fernández wants the team to be known for.

"I think we improved quarter by quarter, like you can see, just in the stat sheet,” Fernández said. “[It] really was not a great start, as far as being focused, the pace of the game and physicality. We lost that [opening] quarter by 13, but then we just got better every single quarter. We won that second half. They scored 50 points in the first half and 36 in the second half. That’s who we want to be moving forward. A team that plays up to the level, physically and mentally, to this game.”

After giving up 27 points in the opening quarter and 23 points in the second, Canada held Germany to just 16 points in the third, winning the quarter by eight to go into the fourth trailing by single digits, 66-58.

“Our mindset was to go out there and compete, play hard and win the last two quarters," Dort said. "I feel like we did a good job of that."

Canada’s defence continued to be the story in the fourth.

“I think our energy on the defensive end, we got a lot of stops and that gave us space and we were able to defend and run,” Fernández said. “If we could keep doing that moving forward, we’re going to be a really good team.”

A jumper from Alexander-Walker tied the game at 79 points with under a minute remaining, but a three-pointer from Wagner and then an offensive putback from Dennis Schroder made it a two-possession game with Germany in front with 10.7 seconds remaining. After Dort was called for an offensive foul, a pair of free throws for Moritz Wagner sealed the victory for Germany.

“I’m still adjusting to the FIBA rules,” Dort said. “I’m just coming out here to do my job, playing defence. If I can use all of my fouls, I'll use all of my fouls. For the team, it’s really just to keep playing with each other. We’re here, we’ve got a lot of games to keep getting better, and we’ll keep attacking them.”

Despite the loss, Fernández was encouraged by what he saw from his team in the second half as they battled back.

“The majority of our guys don’t know, they’ve never been in this situation and they’ve never done it together,” he said. “With that being said, I think that we improved. The second group brought the energy from the beginning. Offensively, touching the paint and being ready to shoot, I thought we did a good job. We ended up shooting 37 per cent from three, so that’s a good sign. Defensively, I thought that the effort was there, but we were out of place a lot of times. Obviously those 50 points in the first half come back and hurt you.”

After practising against each other in training camp last week, getting to compete against an actual opponent was welcomed by the players.

“It felt good just to get a good run,” Dort said. “We're still trying to get better, we’re still trying to find a way to play together. It was a new game for us but it was good. We’re learning and we’ll go back tomorrow, watch film and get better.”

Next up for Canada is a meeting with New Zealand on Saturday, Aug. 12 at 9:45 a.m. ET / 6:45 a.m. PT in DBB SuperCup action in Hamburg, Germany, while the host Germans take on China. The winners will advance to the finals on Sunday. A third-place game will be played before the final. Tip-off times are to be determined.

In the days before Saturday’s contest, the team will continue to prepare.

“Just focus on ourselves right now,” Fernández said. “What can we do better in the next game? The answer to me is very easy. It’s about us. Playing the pace we need to play, the physicality, the focus, the communication. I think put all of that together, we can play four quarters, we’ll live with the result.”