Basketball

Canada edges Argentina in men's basketball

Canada improved to 2-0 in the men's basketball tournament at the Pan Am Games on Wednesday evening with a 88-83 defeat over a winless Argentina squad.

Murray, Nicholson combine for 44 points; Canada now 2-0

Canada's Anthony Bennett reacts after scoring on Argentina. (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

Andrew Nicholson and Jamal Murray combined for 44 points Wednesday as Canada rallied to beat Argentina 88-83 in Pan American Games men's basketball play.

Tied 80-80, Brady Heslip sank a three-pointer with 37 seconds remaining and then three free throws to move Canada ahead.

After a quiet first half, Nicholson came alive in the second to help spark Canada.

Nicholson, who had six points in the first half, finished with 24 points while Murray, an 18-year-old point guard, had 20. Anthony Bennett, who returned when the game was on the line, contributed 17.

Facundo Campazzo had 23 points and Nicolas Laprovitola 22 for Argentina.

Bennett and Murray, off the bench, carried the Canadian offence in the first half. They combined for 19 of Canada's 24 points in the first quarter and 30 of 44 in the first half.

Murray and Bennett made 10 of their 15 shots in the first half with Bennett hitting everything he tried. The rest of the Canadian team was three of 15.

But Bennett got in foul trouble. Argentina finished the first half strongly and started the third quarter with resolve, building a 13-point lead.

Bennett picked up his fourth foul with 4 1/2 minutes left in the third quarter, sending him back to the bench. Fellow NBAer Nicholson led a Canadian charge with eight points and an assist to cut the lead to 66-59 going into the final quarter.

A falling Murray brought Canada to within two with a three-pointer with the shot clock expiring. Nicholson then put Canada ahead 70-69 with another late three-pointer in a 9-0 run.

Both teams seemed upset with the officiating.

There were some empty seats at the Mattamy Athletic Centre but the largely red-and-white crowd was enthusiastic.

The pressure was on Argentina following an 86-84 overtime loss to Mexico on Tuesday. Canada dispatched the Dominican Republic 105-88 in its opener.

Argentina is ranked third in the world by FIBA while Canada is No. 25 although the rankings don't mean much here since most countries are not fielding their top squads.

Canada faces Mexico (1-1) in its final pool game Thursday.

In earlier action Wednesday, the Dominican Republic downed Mexico 95-70 and Brazil defeated Venezuela 79-64.

Coach Jay Triano complained about the Canadian defence in the opener and there were more holes early Wednesday. Federico Aguerre took advantage of an empty path to the basket to dunk as an incensed Triano looked on.

Bennett had nine of Canada's first 12 points, hitting every shot he tried including a three-pointer. Murray hit his first two shots for five points and then scored Canada's first eight points of the second quarter, showing his hustle charging back down the court to deny a layup after an Argentine steal.

Bennett, meanwhile, started getting in some of the Argentine players' faces.

Then Argentina got hot. A 12-0 run late in the second quarter, during which Bennett was called for his third foul, gave the South Americans a 50-44 lead at the half.

The Canadian men's best finish at the Pan Ams was fourth in 1983. Argentina won gold on home soil in 1995 and also has two silvers.

Seven of the eight teams at the Games will taking part in the FIBA Americas Championship in Mexico City, which runs Aug. 21 to Sept. 12, with Olympic qualification on the line. The U.S., as 2014 FIBA World Cup champion, have already qualified for the 2016 Rio Olympics and will skip the Mexico City tournament.

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