Undefeated Canada crush Panama in FIBA Basketball World Cup qualifying
PANAMA CITY — Canada’s men’s basketball team remains undefeated in World Cup qualifying after losing 106-50 to Panama on Monday.
Detroit Pistons forward Kelly Olynyk scored 18 points, while Kevin Pangos added 17 and the Canadians, the only undefeated team in the Americas Zone, improved to 8-0, and all but secured their place in the FIBA World Cup 2023.
Melvin Ejim added 15 points, Zach Edey added 15 points and seven rebounds, and Kassius Robertson finished with 11.
Jhivvan Jameel Jackson Melendez had 16 points to top the Panamanians.
Canada took the floor on Monday already one step closer to qualifying, thanks to Venezuela’s 76-72 win over the Dominican Republic earlier in the evening. The Canadians then needed to beat both Panama and the Bahamas to surprise Argentina late in the game.
The Canadians were coming off a 99-87 victory over Argentina on Thursday in Victoria, their toughest qualifying test so far.
They established their dominance early Monday, taking a 16-0 lead before Panama finally went on the scoreboard with 5:56 left in the first quarter. Canada’s stifling defense limited Panama to 3-for-16 and forced five turnovers. The Canadians took a 33-7 lead in the second.
Point differential counts in FIBA tiebreakers and so there was no respite from Canada in the second quarter. Pangos’ three-pointer 50 seconds before the break gave the Canadians a 42-point lead.
Edward Lopez’s buzzer-beater beyond half the pitch gave Panamanian fans at Arena Roberto Duran something to cheer about and cut Canada’s lead to 64-25 before halftime.
The Canadians continued to build their lead and led 92-36 with a quarter to play.
Coach Nick Nurse was able to deepen his bench for much of the second half, as young players like Edey, 20, a seven-foot-four striker for Purdue, got significant playing time.
The Canadians dominated at all levels, forcing 20 turnovers in Panama. They outshot the home side 50-34, shot 56.7% from the field against Panama’s 34.1%.
Canada was without three NBA players on Monday: Oklahoma City guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who was Canada’s best player in all three games he played this summer, Utah Jazz guard Nickeil Alexander -Walker and Detroit Pistons guard Cory Joseph. Trae Bell-Haynes, Abu Kigab and Jean-Victory Mukama replaced them.
Monday’s game was the last time Nurse had NBA players at his disposal, as the final two qualifying windows take place in the middle of the NBA season, Nov. 7-15, 2022 and Feb. 20-28, 2023. Nurse probably won’t be coaching in those windows either, as he will be busy with the Toronto Raptors.
The top three from each of Groups E and F, and the best fourth, will qualify for the 32-team FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 from August 25 to September 10, 2023 in the Philippines, Japan and Indonesia.
The World Cup is a direct qualifier for the Paris 2024 Olympics. The final four Olympic berths will also be decided in the last chance qualifier, something Canada wants to avoid after the Czech Republic’s heartbreaking elimination from the team. in a last chance qualifier in 2021 in Victoria.