Sunday, 30 August 2009

Puerto Rico 90, Canada 70

The host Puerto Ricans had their way this evening with a listless, emotionally-worn-out Canadian team, pulling away early and then building leads as large as 32 in a 90-70 victory that completed a perfect 4-0 Group A effort and put the hosts in a strong position to qualify for Turkey. Canada also advances to the round of 8 and will carry forward a 1-2 record. Realistically, the Canadians need to go a minimum of 3-1 in games this coming week against undefeated Brazil, Dominican Republic (with 3 solid NBAers in Charlie Villenuava, Al Horford and Francisco Garcia in the lineup), a resurgent Argentina led by the tournament's top player in Luis Scola and an underrated Panama team to have any hope of finishing in the top 4 to lock down a qualifying spot.

Virtually from the get-go tonight, the emotional effects of Canada's tough loss to Uruguay last night, which will likely go down as the turning point of the tournament for Canada, was evident. Canada's quarter-court defense, which was air-tight through the first two games and reasonably strong against Uruguay (save for the multiple second chances given up), displayed no where near the energy needed to stop the hot shooting Puerto Ricans. The Canadian coaching staff quickly went to zones for several possessions as the Puerto Ricans had several open shots early and 6'2" Carlos Arroyo had his way getting into the paint.

After Canada got out to a nice start leading 7-4 behind a couple of mid-range jumpers by 6'10" Joel Anthony and an in-rhythm three by 6'5" Carl English, Arroyo took the game over and his blow-by past 6'1" Jermaine Anderson and subsequent turn around off a post up and gave the hosts their first lead at 8-7, starting a 9-0 run. It was a lead they would not relinquish again. The Puerto Ricans made 5 of their first 6 shots and pelted a huge three point barrage on the Canadians to lead 23-14 after 1 and 45-30 at half. The point totals were by far the highest allowed by Canada to this point in the tournament.

One of the keys highlighted by Canada's coaching staff prior to the tournament was the necessity to take care of the ball and take good shots. Canada failed miserably in both aspects tonight and the emotions of a bad loss last night and the challenge of playing their fourth game in four nights against the rested hosts was too much for Canada to handle. The emotions spilled over into a near-incident midway through the third quarter as with 5:20 remaining and Canada down 15, captain Jesse Young, seething from a very poor blocking call in which he clearly had position, responded to the call by giving the referee the middle finger. Canada Head Coach Leo Rautins responded by protecting his player and also taking a "T". When the free throw party and next possession were completed, Canada was down 20 and it was "game done" for all intents and purposes.

Anderson, who had 4 fouls three minutes in to the third quarter, had a difficult time with Arroyo all evening long, not being able to consistently keep the NBA calibre point in front of him and even getting a jumper uncerimonously blocked. This gave 6'0" Tyler Kepkay an opportunity for extended minutes and the backup point guard from B.C. was solid with three 3's and 11 points. 6'5" Andy Rautins came off the bench to shoot 6 for 10 from downtown to lead Canada with 18 points however 4 of those 3's came in the fourth quarter with the result already well decided. After a strong start offensively and a couple of resounding blocks inside, Anthony was not involved for long stretches in the game while English was ok when it was still a game. All in all, this was a difficult game to play and Puerto Rico made it even more difficult with how well they shot the ball and in general with how confident their entire roster played.

The schedule for the next round has been announced (see below) and here are the standings. Second round games begin on Tuesday with Canada facing Argentina (2-1) at 4 PM on the SCORE. Canada then faces Brazil at 1:30 PM on Wednesday. Losses in these 2 games will all but eliminate the Canadians.

Puerto Rico 3-0
Brazil 3-0
Argentina 2-1
Uruguay 2-1
Canada 1-2
Dominican Republic 1-2
Panama 0-3
Mexico 0-3

Uruguay vs. Dominican Republic 1:30 PM ET
Canada vs. Argentina 4 PM
Mexico vs. Brazil 6:30 PM
Puerto Rico vs. Panama 9 PM

Brazil vs. Canada 1:30 PM
Panama vs. Uruguay 16h00 (GMT-4)
Argentina vs. Mexico 18h30 (GMT-4)
Dominican Republic vs. Puerto Rico 21h00 (GMT-4)

Canada vs. Panama 13h30 (GMT-4)
Mexico vs. Dominican Republic 16h00 (GMT-4)
Uruguay vs. Brazil 18h30 (GMT-4)
Puerto Rico vs. Argentina 21h00 (GMT-4)

Panama vs. Mexico 13h30 (GMT-4)
Argentina vs. Uruguay 16h00 (GMT-4)
Dominican Republic vs. Canada 6:30 PM
Brazil vs. Puerto Rico 21h00 (GMT-4)

No comments: