The task was simple for Canada, win and you're in. The only problem was that to get that win they'd have to go on the road in a tough environment against a veteran-laden Brazilian team that featured Anderson Varejao and Leandro Barbosa. In the end, Canada rode their defence and punched their ticket to the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 in China with a 94-67 win.
Hey Canada 🇨🇦! Make sure those passports don't expire before August 2019... We're ALL taking a trip to China! #WeAreTeamCanada #FIBAWC #ThisIsMyHouse pic.twitter.com/Hb31WkgRSF- Canada Basketball (@CanBball) December 3, 2018
On Friday, the Canadian had to face a tough Venezuela side on little to no sleep after a plane delay in Miami saw the team arrived early the morning of the game. It showed as tired legs led to an 84-76 defeat.
On Monday it was a much different looking team. They had their legs under them, they were energized and they took it to Brazil from the opening tip. Canada shot the ball much better than they did in the loss to Venezuela (37.5%) finishing the game with a scorching 51.5% from the field.
Kyle Wiltjer led the way with a game-high 25 points and Phil Scrubb added 15 points in the win. Thomas Scrubb was scrappy all game long and finished with 14 points of his own in the win.
While the shooting was much better in Monday's game it was the defence that was the catalyst for the win. The ageless "Warden" Joel Anthony was incredible defensively - anchoring the paint and not allowing any of the Brazilian guards an easy time on switches.
The highlight moment for Anthony came midway through the second quarter as he was switched onto Barbosa - who is no longer the blur but still possess the speed to get by most big man, but Anthony sat down in his defensive stance and forced Barbosa into a turnover late in the shot clock.
Anthony has been invaluable as the leader for Team Canada through the qualification process and it points to the depth that the country has to call upon a two-time NBA champion.
The qualification process implemented by FIBA was to give fans a chance to see their national team play at home in meaningful games. It also gives them the opportunity to be the topic of conversation year around as opposed to only every four years. There are arguments on both sides to be made whether or not this new process is the right thing for the game, but the bottom line is that it's in place and is the new norm in international basketball.
With some countries best players tied up in either the NBA or Euroleague duties, some national teams are thin, but for a country with the depth of talent that Canada has, qualifying for these World Cups should be a formality. Canada has used 35 different players just to qualify for the tournament - an absolute luxury in the new international landscape. Whether you agree with the process or not it also afforded the opportunity to many who probably would never have donned the national team jersey at the senior level, that's something that's undeniable and something that fans should rejoice about.
Canada still has two more games to play out in the final qualification window in February. They'll do so in front of a home crowd in St John's Newfoundland taking on Chile and Venezuela once again on February 21 and 24 respectively.
The FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 will be held in China on August 31 through September 15, 2019. A record 32 teams will play in 92 games over a 16 game span.
The tournament draw will be held on March 16, 2019, placing each qualifying country in their respective pools.
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