Photo credit: Trung Ho / TrungHo.ca
Canada 84, Chile 61 | Box Score
On the road, in a hostile environment that felt much like a soccer game, this was always going to present a terrific audition for whomever was willing to stake their claim for minutes when the stars presumably return for the main event.
Playing at the Coliseo Antonio Azurmendi in Chile, point guard Franco Morales brought the home side back from what seemed the dead after Canada took a 16-point lead early in the third quarter. Unable to contain him off the dribble, the 5-foot-11 point guard had made 4-of-5 shots inside the arc for the game before a three-pointer brought the crowd to its feet as Chile cut Canada’s lead to six at 50-44.
Desperately in need of an answer, it was the entire squad that answered. First, it was Aaron Best who provided, knocking down a three from the right wing to push the lead back up to nine. After Melvin Ejim got to the line, Kaza Kajami-Keane took on the responsibility of locking down Morales, forcing a shot clock violation. Best then took on building the lead, making an excellent drive to the basket before finishing with a floater.
Canada continued to punish Chile inside, as Joel Anthony and Duane Notice had some nice finishes inside before they snuck in a full-court press that court their opponents off guard and a five-second violation was the result. More stellar defense continued, and the effort and intensity was capped off with an alley-oop slam by Anthony that gave Canada a 66-46 lead to end the third.
The fourth quarter was merely academic from that point on, Canada holding serve and finishing with a resounding 23-point win.
Roy Rana’s men made sure they were the aggressors early, engaging in tons of ball pressure and Kaza Kajami-Keane in particular setting the tone by picking up full court. The veterans were always going to be needed in an environment like this, and Brady Heslip, Melvin Ejim and Joel Anthony were all part of ensuring the Chileans couldn’t get their home fans into a frenzy early on. Besides a three-pointer each for Ejim and Heslip, Anthony was a presence on the interior on both ends of the floor, including one menacing swat on Gerardo Isla with Canada up 10-7.
What Canada gained in forcing turnovers with a relatively smaller starting five of Kajami-Keane, Heslip, Aaron Best, Ejim, Anthony, it lost in rebounding. Anthony seemed to be the only one who could come away with anything off the glass, forcing Coach Rana into a change.
Justin Jackson, the lone NBAer available for this game was the first man off the bench, checking in for Aaron Best with under five minutes remaining. Brady Heslip also checked out for Duane Notice, and the difference in bench quality showed as Canada went on a mini-run to go up 23-14 on a Kyle Landry three-pointer before a Chilean bucket to end the first quarter.
That momentum carried over into the second quarter as Landry and Ejim continued to excel, before Heslip checked back in to provide major separation courtesy of a three-pointer and three shots at the line after getting fouled from long distance. That pushed Canada’s lead to 42-26, momentarily hushing the partisan supporters. Seriously, they were great, and there was hardly an empty seat, which is sadly something Canada hasn’t been able to say about its home games.
Nonetheless, Canada coming away with such a resounding victory without most of its NBA talent — despite the fact it is a lowly opponent that dropped to 1-7 in qualifying — reinforces the fact that the depth and pipeline of talent available is at an all-time high. The next qualifying window opens in late November, before another one in February, so this will be the group depended on at the international level during the grind of the NBA season.
- Canada improves to 7-1 with a plus-184 point differential.
- Trae Bell-Haynes gave Canada some great minutes at backup point guard off the bench, providing some nice penetration with the ball and applying some stifling pressure off it.
- Duane Notice was also tremendous, finishing nine points and seven assists and never looking out of control. He was a plus-23 for the game, too.
- As a reminder, Canada needs to finish in the top three in their pool of six or be the best fourth-place team in the Americas, with seven teams in total qualifying for the 2019 World Cup. Plenty can still happen between now and then, with key games coming against the Venezuelans.