FIBA Basketball World Cup

FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019: Three things to watch for when Team Canada plays the New Zealand Tall Blacks in Sydney


After splitting a pair of games against the Australians over the weekend, Canada now sets its sights on a pair of games in Sydney against the New Zealand Tall Blacks.

The games will be on Tuesday and Wednesday with tip-off set for 5:30 a.m. Eastern Time. Both games are available on CBC Sports platforms and the free CBC Gem streaming service.

Here are three things to look for as Canada continues its prep for the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 in China.

MORE: FIBA World Cup 2019: Who will Canada face during pool play? Schedule, rosters and analysis

Can Canada adapt to FIBA's physical style of play?

In Game One against the Australians, Canada came out aggressively and were first to punch the Aussies in the mouth. Game two was a different story, the Boomers brought the physical play from the get-go and like a boxer throws body punches, the wear and tear it had on Canada didn't show up until the fourth quarter.

Canada scored just 14 points in the final period of their Game Two loss to Australia. They went 0-for-7 from three-point range with most of their shots hitting the front rim. It could've been the travel, but it was likely the physical full-court defence that the Boomers had applied from the opening tip.

When the games start to count, Canada is going to have to react better than they did to the physical play in their loss to the Aussies. Both Australia and Lithuania will try and push the Canucks around the court. Looking for the refs' whistle won't help, Canada must punch back or they'll see their chances of qualifying for the Olympics drop dramatically.

Can Khem Birch emerge as the team's best player?

It took Khem Birch a little while to find his groove in FIBA's physical play. In Game One, was he held to just six points on 3-for-11 shooting from the field. In the first half of Game Two against the Boomers, he was left frustrated time and time again when he attacked and felt like he got fouled but no whistle came. The second half of Game Two is where Birch finally stopped looking for the whistle and just played ball.

He finished with a game-high 18 points, four rebounds and one emphatic block.

He and Andrew Nembhard seemed to find a nice groove in pick and roll situations, which will come in handy when the games come a week from now. One thing most big men hate to do is come out and have to guard on the perimeter, if Birch can continue to be a force as a screener for his guards, he'll put the Lithuanian and Aussie bigs in situations they don't want to be in. Aron Baynes, who's a solid defender, fouled out of Game Two in large part to having to guard multiple on ball screens. Advantage Birch and Canada if this carries over to China.

Can the young guys make an impact?

While most will look at the play of Andrew Nembhard - rightfully so as he's been terrific - Oshae Brissett has emerged as a potential number two or three scoring option for the Canadians.

Brissett, who's just 21-years-old, has proven to be the most athletically gifted player travelling with the team, and he's also shown the ability to beat his man off the bounce when given some time and space.

Brissett finished Game Two against the Aussies with 14 points and five rebounds in 19 mins off the bench. He also had a team-high four free throws - while that's not a huge number of attempts, he's shown the ability to at least get to the line, which is more than we've seen from the rest of the team.

Through the first couple of games for Canada, Brissett may have carved out the sixth man role for himself and if he can be a consistent defender, he should be one of the five players on the floor in closing situations.

There will be times in the tournament when Canada will need a bucket and sometimes you just need to scrap the playbook, find your scorer and let him get said bucket. Brissett may have to be that guy at the 2019 World Cup.

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