Canada lose Olympic opener to Serbia 72-68

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The Canadian women decided that if losing the first game of the Olympic tournament is good enough for the American men’s Dream Team, then it’s good enough for them too.

Canada played a terrific Serbia team in the tournament opener and lost a close game. The game was a fascinating tactical battle, as the Canadians dominated the possession game while the Serbians were far more efficient from the field. Canada ended up with 11 more field goal attempts as they rebounded well on the offensive glass and forced Serbia into a ridiculous 28 turnovers. But ultimately, Serbia shot so well from the field, and especially from deep, that Canada was outgunned. With Kia Nurse and fellow WNBA scorer Bridget Carleton combining to shoot 9 of 28 from the field and 1 of 11 from 3, Canada’s offense couldn’t make it over the hump.

It seemed heading down the stretch that Team Canada was going to blow past Serbia for the win. They overcame a double-digit first-half deficit with incredible defensive pressure in the third quarter, holding Serbia to just nine points, and forcing so many of those 28 turnovers. But Serbia’s three-point shooting was difficult to overcome. In the middle of the fourth, Jelena Brooks, Ana Dabovic (twice), and Aleksandra Crvendakic all hit threes within the span of two minutes. The explosion constituted only one fewer three than Canada hit over the entire game.

There are plenty of reasons to believe Canada will bounce back with better showings going forward. Their defense of course was fantastic, and that should remain true no matter the opponent. And their shooting should certainly be better, as Serbia played solid defense, but plenty of Canada’s misses were on makeable looks. Furthermore, one of Canada’s best players saw her first action since she sprained her right MCL in the middle of June while playing for her Minnesota Lynx. Natalie Achonwa is a WNBA veteran who is one of Canada’s most important players while manning the center position. She was limited to only 21 minutes against Serbia, and she registered a team-high five assists though she didn’t score. It being her first game back since the injury, it’s very understandable that she was limited, and her play ought to improve as she finds her legs as the tournament progresses.

Nirra Fields scored 19 points off the bench for Canada, a team high. Her scoring was vital to Canada not falling out of the game altogether. Unfortunately, Shay Colley let the game in the third quarter with a right shoulder injury.

All in all, the game was encouraging if disappointing. Serbia is a talented team and ranked eighth in the world to Canada’s fourth. That Canada’s best scorers struggled so mightily, and the team still managed to make it a close game, means Canada will be competitive no matter how they shoot. The team is already showing great defensive chemistry, and the offense will come. Their next game will be against South Korea on July 28 at 9 pm EST. A third pool play game against powerhouse Spain looms in which Canada will likely have to win to keep its medal hopes alive.

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