Heading into Saturday, Team Canada stood a top the mountain in Group play. Coming in at 2-0, Canada’s ticket to Tokyo would’ve been punched with a victory verses the Czech Republic (2-1) — a loss however, would make their dreams over with.
Canada’s opening sequence spelled instant trouble for the roster as led by Czech Republic center Blake Schibb, the Czech Republic ironed out a quick 15-6 run to push Canada off early. Canada turned the page hastily pivoting from the deficit to tally an 8-0 run of their own to sneak into striking distance. And after a Nickeil Alexander-Walker buzzer-beater, Canada was down just 29-27.
The second quarter saw much of the same as neither team could stake out any sort of momentum through the period. This all changed once both sides started working towards the perimeter. Team Canada faced a culture shift in the frame as due to a 1-of-6 three-point clinic, they tallied 10 of their 17 points right in the painted area. For the Czech Republic, they caught fire from distance going 4-of-6 on the frame, while only allowing the Canadians two free throws. By half — the Czech Republic stood intact 52-44.
The opening slate of the third was fairly mundane as the Czech Republic’s lead wavered around a seven-to-nine point margin for the first four minutes, but foul trouble helped crack the door even more open. Thanks to two fouls among Andrew Wiggins and Dwight Powell, both players had notched their third foul with four minutes to play, and after another Blake Schibb basket — the Czech’s were back up double-digits. Canada seemed disillusioned in the period finding themselves down 13 at their lowest point, but thanks to Lu Dort’s insertion late, Team Canada scraped up a 9-3 closing run to keep them in striking distance down 67-60.
The Czech Republic’s reign showed little signs of wear in the fourth quarter, so much to the point this game looked like it was all over — it was just getting started. After a pair of Tomas Satoransky free throws the Czech Republic led 92-82 with 57 second remaining, a miracle needed to be in play, and it was. On the other end Lu Dort pulled up for a straight-away after 12 seconds, but another pair of Satoransky free throws reinstilled the idea that this game was very well over. After another major three-ball from RJ Barrett, Team Canada was down 6 with 37 seconds to go, and after a Czech turnover life was in the building. Canada failed to capitalize on this opportunity however as missed threes from Dort and Alexander-Walker put the Czech’s back to the line, but two missed free throws pushed themselves back in. Andrew Wiggins hounded the missed attempt and sped coast-to-coast in five seconds to convert and and-one layup — 94-91 with 17 seconds to go. Next play, a botched inbound pass saw Nickeil Alexander-Walker tip-toe the sidelines to save the ball out to Wiggins, and after a pair of behind-the-back moves, Wiggins pulled a right-wing triple — BANG!
After a missed buzzer-beater, this game went to overtime.
Canada’s momentum shifted into the extra minutes seamlessly. Midway through the frame Team Canada had full control of game as after an Alexander-Walker three coupled with a Barrett lay-in, they held a 99-94 advantage, but the Czech Republic wasn’t done yet. After a quick 4-0 burst, the game mounted at 99-98 inside a minute, but Blake Schibb snuck got his nose back into play for a clutch three-pointer to put the Czech Republic up two. On the return fire the Canadians put their chips back into regulation hero Andrew Wiggins who wavered around the free throw line for a shootaround jumper, he drained it. The Czech Republic had dibs at the last possession carrying a tie ball game with 15 seconds to go. After a timeout, Tomas Satoransky received the basketball isolating against Oklahoma City’s own, Lu Dort. Satoransky took his time starting his motions up top but he shifted gears with six second to go, pulling off a right-sided spin move to get Dort on his left side, after a quick stop Satoransky launched an air-tight jumper over Dort — banked in. With one last chance for the Canadian’s Trey Lyles was freed up for a wide open right baseline jumper, but it rung off too strong.
Canada has officially been eliminated from Olympic play.
This gut-wrenching performance saw movie-esque comebacks from both sides but it was the Czech Republic who received the ovation.
Andrew Wiggins led Team Canada in scoring for all three games, concluding his tenure with a 27 point, 8 rebound game while RJ Barrett brought in 24 points.
Lu Dort had a shaky night after his previous double-digit performance, this time hauling together 6 points on 2-of-6 shooting (1-of-5 3pt FG). One thing is for sure however, his defense came in full force Saturday evening.
With Lu Dort out from Olympic play, the spotlight has now been turned to Gabriel Deck as he will compete with Argentina for upcoming play.