How do you follow up a program-changing 30-point win over a world-class opponent like France?
Well, if you are Canada, you just keep pounding away and the target of the battering ram in Game 2 of this FIBA World Cup for Jordi Fernandez’ Canadians was an overmatched Lebanon.
After a slow start out of the gate, Canada did just that, pummeling Lebanon to the tune of a 128-73 beatdown.
The key was unselfishness as nine different Canadians scored in double figures led by RJ Barrett’s 17.
But most impressive was a FIBA World Cup record 44 assists in the game against just 15 turnovers. The ball was moving, and the result was impressive. Canada shot 71% from the floor and made 18-of 30-three pointers. The result wasn’t so much a surprise as it was how the Canadians went about it.
“It just shows that sharing is caring, and these guys were ready to play the right way,” Fernandez said of the record assist night. “Game likes these, players have a tendency to do it on their own and try to dribble too much. I’m proud of these guys. They played the right way.”
The 55-point win all but assures Canada of advancing to the next round as they go into the final game of this first round against Latvia with a perfect 2-0 record and more specifically, a plus -85 in point differential which could come into play should Canada finish the round tied.
France and Latvia were playing later on Sunday.
Canada won on a lot of fronts in this one. Not only did they get the effort and the result they wanted but did so without having to extend players like Shai Gilgeous-Alexander who only played 17 minutes and is going to be leaned on heavily in every game going forward.
Fernandez also had the luxury of holding out Oklahoma City Thunder defensive standout Lu Dort after the Montreal native got a little banged up in the game against France.
Dort and Mississauga native Dillon Brooks are the backbone of Canada’s defence and while the suggestion from Fernandez was Dort’s absence was completely precautionary, any chance to keep key defenders fresh could pay dividends down the road in the tournament.
Fernandez was very liberal with his minutes in this one going to his bench early to ensure all 11 available players got some run. In fact, no Canadian played more than 20 minutes or less than 14 making this a full team win.
Fernandez was asked in his press conference after the game if there had been any personal surprises for him in maybe what a particular player could do of which he wasn’t previously aware.
He said the only surprise to him was how much of a focus this particular groups puts on team chemistry.
“Everybody has been talking about how talented we are but that’s not the definition of a team,” he said. “These guys have approached every single day since August 1 to build a team and that goes from a walking tour of Grenada where the guys were together, they play cards, they hang out. They enjoy spending time together and at the end of the day that chemistry is going to show up the court and so far, that is what you are seeing. Guys that compete together, that have the same goal no matter what.”
All of that was in shown in abundance on a day in which the team managed that World Cup record 44 assists.
Trae Bell-Haynes, who had 15 points and eight assists in leading a very effective second unit for Canada, said the goal for this game was to just keep building.
“Just super excited we kept our momentum from France,” the 27-year-old Toronto native who plays in Spain’s top professional league said. “We talked about making sure there wasn’t any falloff and keeping the momentum going and I think we did a good job. Guys’ confidence is high. You can see that everyone was playing well, playing free so just happy we kept that going and hopefully we can continue to do that.”
Fernandez, like every good coach, only wants to look ahead at this stage in the tournament.
“The most important game in a tournament like this is the next game and right now we have Latvia in our minds, and we have to prepare for them,” Fernandez said of the Tuesday meeting. “Yes, I’m happy with what we have done, but what we have done is in the past,” he said. “It just reinforces and gives you confidence, but we need that next challenge in front of us.”