canada basketball

Canada cruises to 113-67 win over Bahamas

And now they’re off until late June.

Courtesy: FIBA

Photo courtesy FIBA

Canada 113, Bahamas 67 | Box Score

The Canadian men’s national team took care of business, beating a retooled Bahamas squad in their own gym, 113-67. The routine win puts Canada at 3-1 and second overall in their group with two games left to play in June. The top three teams from each group will qualify for the next stage of FIBA World Cup qualification.

Canada ran over Bahamas in their previous match-up, 93-69, but this Bahamas team wasn’t the one that traveled to Halifax in November. Bahamas brought in eight new players, but suffered the same result.

Brady Heslip led Canada in scoring with 19 points, including five 3s. Melvin Ejim had 14 points with four boards and four assists. Bahamas’ Michael Carey led the squad in scoring with 15 points.

Canada jumped out to an 12-2 in the first quarter behind four three pointers. Brady Heslip hit two, prompting Bahamas coach Mario Bowleg to take a time out. The broadcast went live to the sideline, just in time to catch Bowleg reminding his team that “I told you to find that motherf—r in transition.” Bahamas would figure it out after that, slowing it down and running their offence instead of going one on one. Canada struggled once Joel Anthony took a seat and without the ability to push the ball off misses, the Canadian half-court offence got stuck in the mud. Still, the squad held a 25-21 lead after 10 minutes.

The second quarter was the difference. Canadian coach Gordon Herbert leaned on the depth of this team and it paid off. Canada has so much talent on the wing, rolling out a bunch of players capable of switching on to guards, make plays with the ball in their hands and hit threes. The Canadian defence forced Bahamas into long jumpers or tough passes and then executed incredibly well on offence.

The senior team has rolled through a bunch of players over the past few years for a variety of reasons, but the offensive philosophy has generally remained the same: get out and run off misses, and play a heavy drive-and-kick game with a bunch of threes. The personnel have sometimes held Canada back because they just didn’t have the shooting, but the style of play generated good looks. This game was a prime example of what can happen when the Canadian team is making those shots. Canada held a 50-29 lead at half, knocking down nine 3s on 19 attempts and locking down the Bahamas to four points in the final five minutes of the half.

Any hope of a Bahamian comeback was short-lived. Their most effective player and captain Jaraun Burrows picked up two fouls almost immediately to bring his total to four, forcing him to sit. Without Burrows, the already-sloppy offence took a step back and Bahamas unravelled. Canada’s offence was clicking because of solid execution and easy transition opportunities. They didn’t have to do anything incredible, just move the ball and find the open guy in the corner for a three.

The second half was not worth spending much time on, so let’s spend a bit of time going through some individual performances.

  • You’ve seen it all over Twitter, Melvin Ejim is a guy who should get an NBA look. He showed why tonight, not because of his stat line, but through all the different things he can do at his position. Great feel for the game and will continue to be a big part of the Canadian men’s team should he choose to keep playing.
  • Brady Heslip always gets open. Doesn’t matter how you scheme, Canada will find ways to get him a sliver of space. Fun and important player who plays a big role in setting the tone offensively.
  • Anthony Bennett played well in the fourth quarter, but the opponent was barely trying then.
  • Ryerson Rams alum Adika Peter-McNeilly and Aaron Best both had some good runs in this game.
  • Joel Anthony continues to be a mix of funny and endearing because of his inability to cleanly catch the ball, but he was a great paint presence defensively.
  • Program mainstays Jevon Shepherd and Jermaine Anderson provided the veteran calm you expect.
  • Shoutout to Whitby’s own Dyshawn Pierre for being a do-it-all guy that can surprise you with passing skills before handling a big in the post.

Now Canada looks ahead to the summer round of qualification games. On June 29 and July 2, they’ll play on home soil, returning to Toronto for the first time since the 2015 Pan Am Games to take on the Dominican Republic. They’ll play the U.S. Virgin Islands on July 2 in Ottawa. Canada lost to the Dominicans in Halifax, but the teams could look much different this time around.

Dominican is undefeated right now and will move on to the next round and Canada is extremely likely to move on as well. But as Blake noted in his tweet, these results carry over into the next round so the games still matter. Towards the end of the Canada-Bahamas broadcast, the announcer said that it is expected that Al Horford will suit up for the Dominican in this window. According to FIBA’s archives, Horford has not played for the national team since 2012.

As far as Canada’s roster goes, who knows. The NBA season will be over by then, sure, but always tough to guess who will be available and who won’t. Any guys with contract issues will be a no-go, and this could include Cory Joseph who has a player option for next season. Throw in guys who make late playoff runs and want time off or players that have nagging injuries from the long season and it gets murky.

Overall, this window showed that Canada has some depth in the system and there is reason to believe that the Canadian men’s national team will be able to reach the heights that so many believe they are capable of.

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