Canadian women can control Olympic basketball destiny with win over Spain
Barring disaster, the Canadian women’s basketball team is set to reach the quarter-finals at the Tokyo Olympics.
But Saturday night’s game against Spain (9 p.m. ET, CBCSports.ca) will be crucial in determining the path of a team whose stated goal is to play for a medal after back-to-back losses in the Olympic quarterfinals.
Opening ceremony flag bearer Miranda Ayim unveiled it when the list was announced in June.
“[The podium] has always been the goal. We came into 2016 wanting to do the same and now we’re in a place where we’re supposed to do it, ”she said.
With one round robin match remaining, the final standings could still be played out in a number of ways.
For Canada, it’s pretty simple: beat Spain, and they’ll probably win their group. Lose, and a wild-card qualifier should still be in order. Either way, it would be in the quarterfinals again.
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However, not all quarterfinal appearances are created equal. In this Olympic tournament, the top four teams from the playoffs are placed in one pot and the bottom four in another. The knockout matches are then determined by draw.
WATCH | Canada beats South Korea for their first victory:
This means that the group winners cannot face each other before the semi-finals, and it means that a victory for Canada over Spain should ensure that they will avoid powerful Americans, who are likely to win their group, until at least in the semi-finals.
There’s also the disaster scenario, in which Canada is overthrown by Spain while Australia routs Puerto Rico in Group C, likely knocking out the Canadians with a point differential. Canada lost a 15-point decision to Spain at the 2018 World Championships. Puerto Rico has a minus-77 point differential over two games in Tokyo.
After a first four-point loss to Serbia, Canada, fourth in the standings, rebounded to deal South Korea, No. 19, 74-53 and move to 1-1. In Group A, Serbia are also 1-1, while Spain leads 2-0 and Korea is winless.
“It’s hard to go through an Olympic tournament and not have a loss somewhere. So if that’s the depth we get to – the lowest – we’ll take it in that first game versus later in the tournament. “said starting goaltender Kia Nurse. said after the victory over Korea.
WATCH | Opening of Canada to Serbia:
Canada was able to increase their defense to fuel their offense as they pulled away from Korea in the second half.
It will take him 40 minutes of the same against No.3 Spain, his biggest group test.
“You just need to run more in attack because Spain are a good, rambling team. So take care of the ball and apply defensive pressure and a rebound,” said goalkeeper Shay Colley.
WNBA swingwoman Bridget Carleton exemplified this process in the opening minutes of Canada’s victory, blocking a jump shot before recovering the ball and ending play with a transition layup.
Carleton finished the game with 18 points, seven rebounds and four assists, consistently making the right reads on offense while seemingly all over the place defensively.
Execution, star power needed to beat Spain
In total, Canada only returned the ball seven times against Korea after spitting it 16 times against Serbia.
It could be a sign of a team that hadn’t been fully together since qualifying for the February 2020 Olympics starting to relearn each other’s tendencies.
Head coach Lisa Thomaidis said the team is starting to play ‘Canadian basketball’ but there is work to be done.
“We want to play with pace, we want to play with speed. And our decision making will be the crucial difference between beating good teams and great teams,” she said.
But while a well-executed game is important, Canada need its best players to outdo themselves if they are to beat Spain.
Carleton and her Minnesota Lynx teammate Natalie Achonwa, who scored a double-double, did so against Korea.
Nurse, Canada’s last WNBA triumvirate and biggest star, will need to improve her combined shot to nine for 29 to start these Games. Especially when offensive sets fail, Canada lacked a player who can create a bucket out of thin air.
The nurse is their best bet for doing just that.
And if Canada is a legitimate contender for the podium – as its ranking indicates, it must be – then it must prove it with a clear and competitive effort against Spain.
“We are really looking forward to this game. They are a team that has been on our radar for some time and we will be ready for them,” said Thomaidis.