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MANILA, Philippines – After a hot start in the FIBA World Cup, Canada suddenly found itself on the brink of elimination — all for one game that hardly looked anything like its dominant first-round affairs.
Team Canada came out a little less sharp on offense, and extremely vulnerable on defense, as Brazil pounced on for a 69-65 upset win on Friday night, September 1, in Jakarta, Indonesia.
So instead of the Canadians just cruising to the quarterfinals, the shocker put their quarterfinal bid in peril as they wound up tied at 3-1 with fellow Group L teams Latvia, Brazil, and defending champion Spain.
A disappointed coach Jordi Fernandez publicly aired his frustrations on what was, by far, the worst performance of Canada in this World Cup.
“Shai [Gilgeous-Alexander] has to score, defend, and playmake. And he didn’t,” said Fernandez of the Oklahoma City Thunder star.
Fernandez then continued to call out Utah Jazz’s Kelly Olynyk, New York Knicks’ RJ Barrett, and the Houston Rockets’ Dillon Brooks.
“Kelly has to playmake, rebound, and score efficiently, and he didn’t. RJ has to run the floor, score efficiently, and defend, and he didn’t. And so, Dillon has to defend without fouling, and he didn’t,” Fernandez said.
Gilgeous-Alexander had a team-high 23 points, while his Thunder teammate Lu Dort added 17 points to comprise 40 of Canada’s final score. The rest of the team, meanwhile, shot 7-for-34 from the field to fill up the difference.
Fernandez, though, also owned up to his shortcomings as a coach.
“I can go down the line of the things that we didn’t do as a team, me included. I could have called timeout, I could have set up a play a different way,” he said.
Canada recorded 10 assists throughout the matchup, a far cry from their 29-per-game average in the first round of the group phase, highlighted by its record-breaking 44-assist tally against Lebanon in its second game.
After singling out four of his starters in frustration, Fernandez soon cleared the air.
“It’s not about pointing any of these guys. They’ve been amazing. They’ve worked really hard. They’ve competed at a high level,” said Fernandez.
“We’ve had one bad game right now. We own it. We watch it. We learn from it. And we’re gonna come out really, really aggressive and ready to fight the next game. That’s how life is.”
Tied at 60, Brazil’s Yago Santos blew by Brooks on two straight possessions to score layups that allowed the Brazilians to create a lead and never look back.
Smacked between those possessions was a Dort three that could have changed the course of the game in the final minute, but was later waived off as the shot clock expired before the ball got out of his hands.
“It was a tough one,” said Dort. “They came out ready to play and we kind of let this one slip.”
Canada will play a do-or-die game versus defending champion Spain on Sunday, September 3, to determine who will qualify for the quarterfinals to be held in Manila.
“We’re not here to go home yet,” vowed Fernandez. – Rob Andrew L. Dongiapon/Rappler.com