While the success of Team Canada is no surprise to general manager Steve Nash, after losing their opening match of the tournament to Argentina, where they eventually ended up after the two preliminary rounds was more than just a little unexpected.
In a surprising turn of events Canada finished first overall after the second round at the FIBA Americas and will face fourth place Venezuela in the semi-finals on Friday. The Canadians had clinched a berth in the semi-finals even before their easy 94-73 victory over previously unbeaten Mexico on Tuesday as both Venezuela and the Dominican Republic lost earlier in the day. Then in their final second round game, Canada scored at will against the Dominican Republic and cruised to a 120-103 win to finish with a record of 6-1. (7-1 counting the win over Cuba that wasn’t carried forward to the second round.)
After Mexico defeated Argentina 95-83 in the final game of the second round with a 17-0 run over the final 3.5 minutes, that record put Canada into a three-way tie for first with Argentina and Mexico, tie-breakers putting the high-scoring Canadians at the top. The reward for being seeded first is a semi-final match with 3 win 4 loss Venezuela, a team Canada defeated 82-62 a week ago. A win on Friday earns Canada a spot in Rio at the 2016 Olympics.
“I feel like this was what I envisioned,” Nash said after learning Canada was through to the semis. “There was moments when maybe I wasn’t sure it would come along this crisply, but I thought this would be the curve. We had a timid game against Argentina where we weren’t very good, otherwise we played well in Puerto Rico, we played well since. I don’t think I’d even go as far as pleasantly surprised, but I’ve enjoyed the heck out of it.
“The sky is the limit. Obviously we have a tremendous amount of talent. We have great depth and balance, but again it is always in the details. I think the biggest thing in this tournament for us is continuing to grow because we obviously on any night we can beat anybody, but we could also get beat, especially in a one-off.
“The only thing we are playing against is experience. When you go and you play one game to go to the Olympics anything could happen for the most experienced teams, so for a precocious team like ours you never know what will happen, but it’s exciting.”