U.S. outclasses Canada in final pre-World Cup basketball friendly
Canadian shooters shot just 35 per cent from 3-point range
Canada's men's basketball team ended its pre-FIBA World Cup exhibition schedule with an ugly 84-68 rout by the United States on Monday.
Kyle Wiltjer had 21 points, while Orlando Magic forward Khem Birch — Canada's lone NBA player in the game — had 13 points and six rebounds.
"We've got a lot of work to do, but we've enjoyed our time here," Wiltjer said. "Let's not forget these are practice games."
The Canadians shot just 35 per cent from the field and 6-for-23 (26 per cent) from three-point range.
Jaylen Brown had 19 points to top the Americans, who outrebounded Canada 55-37.
Andrew Nembhard, who injured his knee last week, and Kaza Kajami-Keane (ankle) both returned for Canada, while Brady Heslip, a late arrival for the Canadians, played his first game in Australia.
But Canada was missing Oshae Brissett, who sat out the game for Canada with an injury.
Canada struggled mightily on the offensive end, shooting 27 per cent from the field in the first half to trail 20-9 after one quarter, and 46-31 at halftime.
"You don't play great every night," head coach Canadian Nick Nurse said. "They'll be fine. We just flush this one away and get back to what we're doing."
Canada never in it
The Canadians trailed by as many as 20 points in the third quarter and limped into the fourth down 64-47 in front of a crowd of 15,155 at Qudos Bank Arena.
The Americans stretched their lead to 24 points in the fourth. Canada finished the game with a 7-0 run — including three-pointers from Aaron Best and Wiltjer — to make the score a bit more respectable.
"I don't think we played very well tonight," Nurse said. "I think we've been playing pretty well, with a lot of juice and spirit and energy and I think you could almost sum that game up in the first four or five possessions [of the game]."
Canada finished 4-3 in pre-World Cup action, splitting a pair of games with Australia and Nigeria, and beating New Zealand twice.
For Nurse, the stay in Australia has been great for the players and coaching staff.
"I've learned a lot about them," Nurse said. "I'm a new coach [for this team], and they're still trying to learn me, I think and we've made a lot of progress.
"I think our guys have made a lot of strides, play hard, have chemistry," he said. "We've been really competitive, fun to watch, we've defended, moved the ball, all that stuff. We've played great. We don't expect to play perfectly every night, or even to play well every night."
Both Canada and the U.S. are missing most of their NBA stars, although the U.S. is the only team that heads to the World Cup with a full roster of NBA players.
Canada is without Andrew Wiggins, Jamal Murray, R.J. Barrett, Tristan Thompson, Dwight Powell, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Chris Boucher and Nickeil Alexander-Walker, among others. Miami Heat forward Kelly Olynyk suffered a bone bruise in his knee in the first exhibition game against Nigeria and will skip the World Cup. Sacramento Kings guard Cory Joseph didn't travel to Australia but is expected to join the Canadian team in China.
The Canadians open the World Cup on Sunday against the Australian Boomers, a team they beat by 20 points during this exhibition run, in Dongguan. Their tough Group H also includes Lithuania and Senegal.
Nurse is getting the full tour of the other side of the world this year. The Canadians have been in Australia for a week or so, and now head to China for the World Cup. Then, Nurse will be in Japan when the world champion Raptors (albeit now without NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard) play preseason games against Houston on Oct. 8 and Oct. 10.
Canada: Opens World Cup play Sept. 1 vs. Australia in Dongguan, China.
USA: Opens World Cup play Sept. 1 vs. Czech Republic in Shanghai.
With files from The Associated Press