An ugly loss to Brazil has put Canada’s men’s basketball team back in a familiar spot.
Canada lost 69-65 against its Americas region rival on Friday in Jakarta, Indonesia, setting up a do-or-die tilt with Spain on Sunday for a spot in the World Cup quarterfinals.
A loss to Spain, the reigning world champion, could also relegate Canada back to a last-chance qualifying tournament for the 2024 Olympics — a scenario it hoped to avoid after three blowout wins in the first round.
During its Olympic drought, which dates to 2000, Canada has often found itself in these critical games — think of Venezuela in 2015, or France in 2016, or the Czech Republic on home court in 2021 — and has repeatedly come up short.
WATCH | Canada falls to Brazil:
Like in those past losses, Canada carried a roster seemingly capable of beating any opponent.
This Canadian team was supposed to be different, but Friday’s stunning loss to Brazil is reminiscent of prior defeats — including a surprising lack of togetherness for a team that set a World Cup record with 44 assists just two games ago.
“Offensively, we were not willing to do anything for each other. Space the floor, move the ball, move bodies. And when you play like that it’s really hard to win,” head coach Jordi Fernandez said.
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Instead, Brazil set its pace from the tip, slowing Canada’s previously blazing offence and creating a rock fight.
Canada, which had turned dreary starts into runaway victories previously, was unable to pull that trick this time.
The Canadians held a 12-point lead late in the third quarter, but Brazil chipped away with a methodical 13-0 run to set up a tight finish.
In the fourth quarter, Canada was outscored 24-13 and unable to put together consecutive productive offensive possessions as Brazil’s size and rebounding proved overwhelming.
A critical out-of-bounds call put the ball back in Canadian hands with under two minutes remaining, where Luguentz Dort drew a shooting foul but made just one free throw to tie the game at 60.
After Brazil’s Yago Santos made a basket to build a two-point lead, Dort had a three-pointer disallowed due to a shot-clock violation.
Yago then added another layup, putting Brazil up four points with under 30 seconds to go, and Canada was unable to complete the comeback.
YAGO 🇧🇷<a href=” x <a href=” <a href=”https://t.co/XOBlTCmqmA”>pic.twitter.com/XOBlTCmqmA</a>
Fernandez mentioned Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who led the team with 23 points, in addition to Kelly Olynyk, Dwight Powell, Dillon Brooks and himself as among those who must be better against Spain.
“It’s not about pointing any of these guys. These guys have been amazing. They’ve worked really hard, they’ve competed at a high level. We’ve had one bad game right now. We own it, we watch it, we learn from it and we’re going to come really, really, really aggressive and ready to fight the next game,” Fernandez said.
Now, Canada has one last opportunity to prove this iteration of the team is unlike past squads. The range of possibilities against Spain is wide: lose, and Canada is out of the World Cup, with Olympic hopes likely extinguished as well. Win, and with help in other games, Canada could book its spot in the 2024 Olympics.
When it began training camp exactly one month ago in Toronto, Fernandez, GM Rowan Barrett and multiple players spoke about the team’s chemistry and commitment to each other.
“It’s not about any individual. It’s about us. … I’m going to be there for you either if I have to hold you accountable or if I have to help you. So if we can be perceived that way, with the talent that you guys see here, we’re going to be really good,” Fernandez said in Toronto.
Over five exhibition games and three World Cup matches, Canada played into Fernandez’s vision.
Spain’s golden generation is in the rearview mirror — there are no longer any Gasols on the roster — but it remains the type of tight-knit European team that excels in these tournaments.
Like Canada, it suffered an upset loss on Friday, falling 74-69 against Latvia.
And so Canada will must meet its first adversity of the tournament head-on.
“We haven’t faced anything like this and I believe in our guys that they’re gonna work, they care. We’re gonna watch film and we’re gonna prepare for Spain. It’s gonna be a fun game,” Fernandez said.
Canada will need to carry that belief into Sunday, when this team will ultimately show just how different it is.