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Canadian males stun Spain to make first Olympic basketball look since 2000

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Our lengthy nationwide hoops nightmare is over.

Canada’s males’s basketball crew is again within the Olympics for the primary time since 2000, due to a heart-stopping 88-85 comeback win Sunday over world No. 1 Spain on the FIBA World Cup in Jakarta.

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Down by 10 at halftime, and 12 after a demoralizing third quarter rally went off the rails, the no-quit Canadians dug deep with dogged defence to battle all the way in which again in really beautiful trend.

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Not because the days of Steve Nash and Rowan Barrett had Canada performed Olympic ball. However now Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, RJ Barrett, Dillon Brooks, Lu Dort (all nice on this present day) and firm have performed what so many Canadian groups haven’t been capable of do since.

Brooks, of Mississauga, battled foul bother to contribute monstrously on defence and chipped in with 22 factors for good measure. Gilgeous-Alexander, the crew’s Hamilton-born celebrity, scored 30, together with a flurry of clutch free throws within the last minutes whereas Barrett, the previous Duke star from Mississauga, and son of Canadian GM Rowan Barrett, added 16. Spain obtained 25 from Willy Hernangomez and 20 from Santi Aldama.

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“We’re part of historical past,” Gilgeous-Alexander mentioned afterward. “It’s one thing that’s virtually indescribable. So many individuals alongside the way in which have put in a lot work for this program and having the chance to take action, we need to thank them and in addition signify them.”

Canada had been gifted a golden alternative to do exactly that earlier than this recreation even began. Needing solely a win to advance as one of many two greatest groups within the Americas at this event — due to losses Sunday by the Dominican Republic, Brazil and Puerto Rico — it regarded as if Canada was not going to take benefit. The Spaniards gave the impression to be in full management by means of two quarters, however moreso after regaining their composure.

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However in some way, a way, even after three straight three-pointers did not go down within the fourth quareter, Canada continued to dominate defensively and located a approach to rating sufficient to prevail.

Captain Kelly Olynyk, having by far his worst recreation of the event, hit consecutive three-pointers to spark the crew after which Brooks made play after play to tilt the courtroom with a block, a steal, a jumper or a layup.

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And in the long run, World Cup defending champion Spain had no solutions for the good Gilgeous-Alexander. He outscored his opponents on his personal within the fourth, the third time he’s performed that at this World Cup. He assisted on, or scored, Canada’s last 17 factors and was flawless regardless of the strain on the line when it mattered. When you’ve got a expertise just like the all-NBA first-teamer, you all the time have an opportunity.

Canada dominated its first three video games in Jakarta to the tune of a 110-point differential, together with a momentous tournament-opening blowout of world energy France. Canada had additionally impressively crushed Spain, in Spain, in an exhibition recreation forward of the World Cup, however the loss to Brazil within the first recreation of the second spherical once more put this system in a deep gap.

As all the time appears to be the way in which when Canada performs in these large tournaments, one unhealthy efficiency at a most inopportune time usually sinks it. Fortunately, this group obtained one other probability, as an alternative of what occurred in Mexico Metropolis in 2015 and Victoria in 2021, when their last-chance Olympic desires resulted in agonizing trend, with late photographs going Venezuela and the Czech Republic’s manner, respectively, after Canada had earlier cruised at these tournaments.

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However this time, it was lastly a unique ending. Even with out Jamal Murray, Andrew Wiggins and different key gamers from its deep pool of expertise, Canada had sufficient to do the job. New head coach Jordi Fernandez — inserted into the position solely weeks earlier than the event when Nick Nurse stepped down — continues to impress along with his methods and the way he handles his crew.

Each squads began a bit sloppily, however the recreation was tied 21-21 after 1 / 4. Canada had little going offensively outdoors of what Gilgeous-Alexander and Barrett supplied. Odd officiating swung the sport in Spain’s favour within the second after which again Canada’s manner within the third, earlier than Spain shook it off and once more began executing effectively.

Among the key moments late within the Canadian rally included a particularly powerful layup by Gilgeous-Alexander which additionally earned him a visit to the road; overcoming Barrett fouling out late; Brooks hitting a three-pointer to tie the sport with 1:16 remaining; after which forcing a Spanish participant out of bounds for a turnover. However the dagger was Gilgeous-Alexander shaking off his defenders to nail an ice-cold step-back bounce shot to provide Canada its first lead because the first body. When Dort got here up with a steal after a deflection, the sport turned a free throw contest to shut and Gilgeous-Alexander calmly hit all of them.

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Later, he gave Brooks, who’s having fairly the summer season — this run coupled with the massive new contract he signed with the Houston Rockets again in July being the highlights, his due.

“It was particular, one for the books,” Gilgeous-Alexander mentioned of the play of Brooks. “He performs the sport with the appropriate vitality … He was prepared for the second. Huge-time recreation.”

Subsequent up will likely be Slovenia and NBA MVP candidate Luka Doncic within the World Cup quarterfinals on Wednesday (8:30 ET). The winner of that may get both Lithuania or Serbia, each with important dimension benefits on Canada.

However no matter what else occurs on this occasion, the job has been performed by this group. They’ll be in Paris they usually’ll be harmful.

After so a few years of frustration, unhappiness and incredulity, Canada is again.

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