If the NBA player laden Team Canada has a weakness it’s that they are young and the Argentine veteran Luis Scola was more than happy to teach his inexperienced opponents a few things on his way to a 35 point 13 rebound performance in his team’s humbling 94-87 victory.
Canada may be the favorite at the 2015 FIBA Americas, but Argentina is a close second and Scola has been a Team Canada killer for the better part of a decade. It was no different this time. After a slow start in which Scola uncharacteristically threw up a couple of air balls and shot 2-9 from the field for just 4 points in the first quarter, the FIBA superstar – and Scola has been nothing less than a superstar at this event for years – started taking over. Making the 7′ Kelly Olynyk look like the smaller man on the court, Scola shot 4-6 for 11 points in the second quarter as Argentina eliminated Canada’s 20-17 first period advantage to go into the half up 46-42. Unfortunately for Canada, Scola was only just starting to heat up.
“Scola is a really good player,” said Olynyk during the postgame presser. “He has a lot of stuff to his game. He can shoot the ball, drive and close out. In the post he is real tough to guard, up-and-unders and lots of fakes. He is a guy that you really have to stay disciplined on.”
Argentina runs virtually every offensive set through Scola and the veteran took advantage of his young opponents at every turn. His crafty and somewhat embarrassing (for Canada) play could be summed up by what his did to the burgeoning young superstar Andrew Wiggins in the third quarter. As Wiggins reached to impede Scola’s progress, the veteran changed direction and went inside for the easy layup leaving Wiggins wondering where he had gone. Wiggins wasn’t the only Canadian Scola left standing in disbelief as he scored 18 points and grabbed 5 boards in the quarter. None of the other Canadian players were fairing any better guarding Scola.
“Through their offense, (Scola) touched the ball two, three, four times per possession,” Olynyk said. “It’s tough to guard. We got to guard him with five guys and we didn’t do a great job on him unfortunately.”
This game was close. While Scola was an unstoppable force, Canada has a depth of talent that no other team in this tournament can touch. It wasn’t until Argentina went on a 11-2 run in the fourth quarter aided by three Team Canada turnovers that either team led by double-digits.
Canada did make a lot of noise at the end. Olynyk made a 2-point shot with two minutes to go that started an 8-0 run punctuated by dunks from Anthony Bennett and Wiggins to get to within 4 points, but that was as close as they got.
“The second time we played against Scola and Nocioni, we know they are veteran players,” head coach Jay Triano said. “It was a good experience for us.”
Canada had four players scoring in double-digits. Wiggins and Bennett had 13 points each. Brady Heslip and Olynyk had 11 points each with Olynyk adding 10 boards. However Canada was uncharacteristically outrebounded 48-44 and outscored in the paint 52-44. Plus, turnovers have been a problem for Canada all summer and Argentina turned 13 turnovers into 20 points.
Canada plays Cuba on Wednesday. As Cuba isn’t very good, look for the Canadians to take out their frustrations from Tuesday’s game on them.