Brazil upsets Canada, as secondary shot-making goes missing

Yikes, that's a tough one.

A glacial pace, that one.

The game was physical from the outset. Even with NBA talent mixed and matched throughout these FIBA squads, sizes and skillsets can end up being sparse within a team. Brazil knew they wanted to guide Canada towards their size on the defensive end, and they trusted the late clock, pick n’ roll creation of Yago Santos over the duration of the game, eventually finding enough offense with it.

Both teams were sticky at the point of attack – Dillon Brooks and Nickeil Alexander-Walker were particularly strong to start, moving Brazil away from their pick n’ roll maestro, Santos, early. Sideline seals and ball reversals didn’t yield much for them, and their best offensive process was, for a bit, targeting Kelly Olynyk in space. Some shot-making from Gui Santos in particular gave Brazil an early lead. On the other side, Canada was getting some looks from slips to the rim, but the pick n’ roll drives were being tracked by Bruno Caboclo who was terrific as a help-side defender.

With Shai Gilgeous-Alexander struggling to navigate the handsy, pressuring guards and the length in help-side and the rest of the team a little bit hesitant to pull from downtown, it was bad on the offensive end. They only scored 13 points in the first frame, but their saving grace was the defense that kept them within 3. As I mentioned above, keeping the ball out of the paint, denying ball handlers downhill momentum, and forcing long jumpers (Brazil was 2-12 from 3 at half). Holding their ground until something popped off on offense, or they could inject some speed into the game, as Brazil was deliberately slow.

The speed and shot-making came off the bench, largely from Lu Dort (who was also tremendous on defense, especially guarding up against the big Brazilian forwards) who cashed two triples, and got a bucket + the foul after a decisive drive off a skip pass. He had 9 points at the half. Olynyk still found himself on an island quite often to start the second quarter, and he hit a three and a push shot to help buoy things at least. Even better though, Canada became more help-conscious when Olynyk was isolated, and Brazil was forced to turn a lot of their isolation looks into dribble hand-offs that were easily handled by Canada’s sticky point-of-attack defenders. More pre-switching, a bit of zone, the adjustments really worked for a time.

All of this, while waiting for Gilgeous-Alexander to find his scoring touch, which he did. Not an efficient scoring touch, but a scorer’s touch. Shots went up, shots went amiss, but Brazil’s length did garner some foul calls, and Gilgeous-Alexander’s jumper did garner some made shots. 11 points on 12 used possessions isn’t great, but with the Canadian side shooting 38-percent at the half, they took whatever they could get. Any bit of offense was enough with how good their defensive performance had been. At half, they were up double-digits, 37-27.

The third quarter was a trying time for both teams. With Brooks, NAW, and Barrett combining to shoot 1-13 halfway through the 3rd, the Brazil defense was packed firmly in the paint and daring jump shots to beat them. Overloading on ‘SGA’, leaving chasms for shooters, and nothing dropping. For his part, ‘SGA’ still jittered and wormed his way into looks, which is expected of the all-out star. However, getting late shot clock creation, mid-range finishing, and a deep three to bring Canada back into a comfortable lead, from Dort? Not entirely unexpected, but not something to set your watch to. After the lead shrunk to 4 halfway through the 3rd quarter, Canada stretched it back to 12. Unfortunately for the Canadians, a couple late shots (one a buzzer beater to end the 3rd) and a technical foul (called on Dort) brought Brazil back to within 6 before the 4th quarter tipped off – 52-46.

The slow, methodical style that Brazil had imprinted on the game was allowing them to bridge some of the talent gap, and eventually the lead. Jordi Fernandez started Canada off the 4th quarter without ‘SGA’ on the floor (have to rest some time), and Canada struggled mightily to create any looks on the offensive side of the floor. Brazil slowly worked their way into the lead at 54-53 after a pair of free throws. Gilgeous-Alexander checked back in though, and immediately wiggled his way into an and-1. Despite shooting very poorly from the floor, Yago Santos was Brazil’s offensive engine and they kept going his way. He was diming up his rollers — Caboclo in particular, who finished with 19 pts and 13 rbs — , and cutters (finishing with 10 assists) as Canada’s deny defense waned a bit, and the pick n’ roll containment slipped as a result.

The mid-range is what fed Canada’s offense down the stretch. Threes weren’t dropping, and the paint was packed. After all, the mid-range is the providence of stars, and that’s where Gilgeous-Alexander tried to lead them. A nice fader put the Canadians up 57-55, but they eventually surrendered the lead, and the game. The aforementioned Santos turned the corner twice down the stretch for layups, Caboclo hit a drop-step layup, and Canada clanked threes and layups down the stretch.

Ultimately, the rhythm of the game put Canada off, and their shooters were greatly effected. Barrett, in particular, failed to make good on his creation possessions, but the team as a whole struggled against Brazil’s length. The defense was definitely good enough, but the offense was an objective failure in this one.

Canada’s game against Spain on Sunday is a win-or-go-home matchup. Despite the disappointing result of today’s game, I like Canada’s odds against Spain. We move.

Have a blessed day.