The loss came despite Canada forcing Serbia into 28 turnovers as the team overcame a rough-shooting first half and an eight-point half-time deficit to go into the fourth quarter tied.
Nirra Fields scored a game-high 19 points to lead Canada, while Kia Nurse had 16 and Shay Colley added 12 in the loss. Serbia was led by Sonja Vasic’s 16 points, while Ana Dabovic scored 11 points, including a pair of three-pointers during a 9-2 Serbia run down the stretch.
“We want to win every game we play,” head coach Lisa Thomaidis said. “I thought we had a slow start and got things turned around in the second half, built a lead and then couldn’t put them away. We know they can hit clutch threes and they did that at the right time. We did a lot of really solid things [in the game]. We turned them over 28 times, I was really happy with that, but at the end of the day we’re still disappointed in the loss.”
With 14 lead changes and seven ties, the game went down to the wire before a layup from Dabovic with two seconds remaining sealed the victory for Serbia.
“It was a great game overall,” Fields said. “We picked it up in the third quarter, which we’ve been doing a great job [of] since playing together. We made some adjustments and we got into a close game... We’re very confident going into the next games, knowing that our defence is key.”
After the slow first half, Canada came out to start the third with their defensive intensity turned all the way up. Their defensive pressure helped to force Serbia into eight turnovers in the quarter as Canada won the third 17-9 to go into the fourth with the score tied at 45 points.
Serbia scored the first five points of the final quarter to take a 50-45 lead. The teams traded baskets before a layup from Fields and then a pull-up jumper from Bridget Carleton gave Canada a one-point lead, 54-53 with 6:31 remaining.
The game was tied again, two minutes later, after a layup from Nurse with 4:25 to go. Serbia responded with a trio of three-pointers during a 9-2 run before Fields answered with a three of her own to get Canada back within four with 2:18 remaining. After an unsportsmanlike foul was called on Serbia, Canada received two free throws and the ball, but couldn’t take advantage.
Canada shot just 38 percent in the game, including 21 percent (5-for-24) from three.
“I thought the shots were okay,” Thomaidis said of the team’s shot selection in the first half. “I thought the way we were getting them wasn’t great. I thought the ball did stick. We didn't have great ball movement. Having said that, we were taking shots we can make. That turned around in the second half. The quality wasn’t terrible, but it certainly could have been better.”
Canada dropped their first game in Tokyo despite outscoring Serbia 23-11 in fast break points, winning the battle of the offensive glass 9-6, scoring 25 bench points to Serbia’s 16, and earning 28 points off of Serbia’s miscues, compared to Serbia’s 11 points scored off Canada’s 16 turnovers.
Up next for Canada is a match-up with Korea on July 28 at 9 p.m. ET. With the first game of the Olympics already in the rear-view, Thomaidis and her staff will shift their focus onto the challenge ahead. Fans in Canada can catch the game streaming live on CBC.
“Every game at the Olympics is pressure-packed,” she said. “Any team is capable of beating anyone else. It's going to be important for us to respond and come out on top against Korea.”