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Head Coach Jay Triano close up

It’s Pan Am Silver For Canada Basketball

Team Canada looked like they had never been in a really big game before and Brazil just did what they had been doing all tournament, so it was Pan Am Silver for the team that had never won a medal at this tournament. Brazil has now taken home Gold in four of the past five events.

After an earlier win over an Argentine team that has been the bane of Team Canada in previous international events, head coach Jay Triano was as excited as he ever has been during international competition.

However, that was nothing after coming from behind to defeat Team USA in the semi-finals and advance to the Gold Medal Game. That win, any win, over any American team was a long time coming for Canada’s Senior Men’s National Team. In the end, it was a very proud Coach Triano watching his team get their medals.

Canada was the top scoring team in the tournament, but it was obvious being in the Finals got to them. They gripped the ball too tight and rushed their shots in the first half, shooting 5-19 in the first quarter and 3-16 in the second. A frustrated Andrew Nicholson, who had become Canada’s go-to-guy for a bucket, picked up his third personal foul at the end of the half, then a quick foul in the third quarter that he made worse by adding a technical foul that took him out of the game. Under FIBA rules a tech counts as a personal and five fouls ends your night. It seemed like everything that could go wrong was going wrong for Canada.

Brazil felt no such pressure and shot 19-31 to start the game as they built up a 48-29 lead heading into the half. Brazil was up by 25 points in the third quarter just after Nicholson got himself ejected. At this point everything the Brazilians threw up at the basket was going in and Canada could do nothing right.

Then, possibly in desperation or maybe just for the experience,  Triano turned to the youngsters Dillon Brooks and Jamal Murray for a Team Canada version of small ball and to some amazement, it started to work. Canada’s energy level on the court went up, everyone was hustling and diving for balls and Brazil’s torrid scoring pace slowed. There were even signs of Brazil looking out of sorts as Canada closed to within 6 points while two Brazilians fouled out including their star scorer Vitor Benite.

Unfortunately for Canada, the deep and experienced Brazilians regained their composure, stopped Canada’s run and rebuilt their double-digit lead. For about two minutes it looked like Canada was going to pull off the improbable comeback, but then it was over and Brazil managed last five minutes until they became Gold. The final score was Brazil 86, Canada 71.

This was a tune-up tournament for Canada and most of the participants. The big show with all the NBA stars in attendance is happening in Mexico at the FIBA Americas Olympic Qualifying tournament later this summer. However, it was an important learning experience, confidence booster and tryout for several of Coach Triano’s players with limited international tournament experience and even less success at these events as reported by Canada Basketball.

“Brazil is a good team and they played well today,” said Canada Head Coach, Jay Triano. “I think we grew up throughout the tournament and throughout this game. I’m glad that we showed some fight to get back in the game.”

“It was a great experience playing with these guys,” said Murray. “We’re still very proud of what we did, even though this not the final goal that we wanted.”

Murray was the surprise of the tournament. The 18-year-old came off the bench, but was one of Canada’s best offensive players with a flair for both scoring and creating for others. It is going to nearly impossible for Triano to leave him off the roster going to Mexico.

Canada vs Brazil Gold Medal Game boxscore



Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.