VICTORIA, B.C. – Team Canada will face off against China tonight, marking the first time these two nations have played each other in a FIBA competition.
Canada, who is coming off a 97-91 defeat against Greece yesterday and pretty much guaranteed themselves a spot in the semi final, have won nine of their 10 games against teams from the FIBA Asia zone in the Olympic qualifying tournaments, while China will be their ninth opponent from that region. China, meanwhile, is yet to play in the tournament but has taken part in each of the last nine Olympic tournaments, appearing in nine-straight Olympic games. However, the Asian berth that China usually gets is going to host nation Japan this summer, so they will need to overcome the odds and win this tournament to go through.
China has had more time together as a team than the rest of the field, according to SupChina, but the team will be missing star center Yì Jiànlián due to injury. Instead, they will be led by guard Wú Qián, who won the MVP of the Chinese Basketball Association this past season, averaging 19.0 points, 7.6 assists, and 3.6 rebounds on 38/34/86 shooting splits, leading the Zhejiang Golden Bulls to a 41-11 record.
In terms of style, China is a team that likes to run and moves the ball really well. They are similar to Canada in that sense, but they might change their strategy in order to not play into Canada’s hands. After all, China has had the most time to prepare for their opponent and should have fresher legs than Canada. It will be interesting to see if China plays their own game and runs, or if they slow it down and try to make it a more physical, slow game like the Greeks did against Canada.
They could alter their strategy and feed the post, especially if Team Canada continues switching one-through-five like they did in the second-half against Greece. China can utilize 6-foot-11 center Qi Zhou, who should get the start, as well as 7-foot-5 center Chuanxing Liu, who averaged 9.4 points, 8.1 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks with the Qingdao Eagles in the Chinese Basketball Association this past season. The problem for Canada is that they only have one traditional big on their roster: Dwight Powell who, despite having a great game against Greece, is listed at 6-foot-9 and not big enough to handle some post-scorers one-on-one.
Other than that, I’ll be interested to see if Canada starts Lu Dort over Trey Lyles, as the Powell-Dort frontcourt was a menace defensively. If the Canadians truly want defense to be their calling card, they might consider starting Dort and upgrading their athleticism and speed while sacrificing a bit of spacing and shot-creation.
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Personnel-wise, I’m expecting Cory Joseph to have a bounce-back game against China. Joseph had just 3 points and 1 field-goal attempt in 27:39 minutes against Greece, and struggled against the physicality of Greece’s guards. That shouldn’t’ be as much as a problem against China, and Joseph needs to be more aggressive getting paint touches and kicking it out to shooters and finding his own shot. He did a good job pushing the pace in the second half against Greece, but his teammates weren’t always running with him, forcing him to slow down and create in the half-court.
In terms of the rotations, Nurse played 10 guys against Greece, with Anthony Bennett playing in the first half and Michael Mulder playing in the second. Given that they are pretty much guaranteed a spot in the semi-final, Nurse might continue shaking up the rotations and giving others guys an opportunity. The team lacks shooting, so i’m expecting Mulder to get more run and we might even see Aaron Doornekamp or Trae Bell-Haynes.
The game kicks off at 7:05pm EST on CBC Sports and DAZN.