The Canadian national team hasn’t had a ton of success in international competition in recent years and is missing top players like Jamal Murray and Andrew Wiggins at this year’s World Cup. However, Team Canada looked formidable its first group-play game on Friday, outscoring a talented French club by 27 points in the second half en route to a 95-65 win.
“We got our ass kicked,” French wing Evan Fournier told reporters after the game, per Antonis Stroggylakis of Eurohoops. “… They were really physical with us. Taking us out of our set plays. And as a team I think they kind of forced us to do things that we don’t want to do.”
The Canadians leaned heavily on their NBA talent in the victory, with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, RJ Barrett, Dillon Brooks, Luguentz Dort, Dwight Powell, Kelly Olynyk, and Nickeil Alexander-Walker all playing at least 20 minutes. Melvin Ejim was the only other player to log more than five minutes in the game.
Gilgeous-Alexander was the standout, racking up 27 points, 13 rebounds, and six assists in just 27 minutes of action. Powell (+35 in 23 minutes) and Brooks (+33 in 26 minutes) anchored Canada’s aggressive defense.
Canada will face Lebanon on Sunday, while France will look to bounce back against Latvia.
Here’s more on the World Cup:
- In an Insider-only story, Jonathan Givony and Kevin Pelton of ESPN pick their 15 most interesting players at the World Cup, including reigning NCAA national player of the year Zach Edey (Canada), projected 2024 first-rounder Juan Nunez (Spain) and Fournier (France), who scored a team-high 21 points on Friday after spending most of last season glued to the Knicks‘ bench. A strong World Cup could help earn Fournier a new NBA opportunity via trade or buyout, Pelton notes.
- Team USA entered Friday as the strong frontrunners to win the 2023 World Cup, but head coach Steve Kerr knows the team can’t afford to get overconfident, as Brian Windhorst of ESPN writes. “Last time through this tournament, we finished seventh, we lost (two) games,” Kerr said. “We recognize how hard this is. These are not the days of 1992. … We may be one of the favorites, but I don’t think anybody’s clear cut. I think there’s a lot of teams that have a shot at this thing.”
- Following an eventful offseason that saw him traded from Brooklyn to Houston to Oklahoma City to Atlanta, veteran guard Patty Mills provided a reminder on Friday of what he can bring to a team. The Hawks guard scored a team-high 25 points in Australia’s resounding win over Finland. “No surprises there,” Jack White said of Mills’ performance, per Olgun Uluc of ESPN. “We know he can turn it on; that’s what he does… he’s a hell of a leader and it’s what we expect from him.”
- Prior to the start of the World Cup, Timberwolves big man Karl-Anthony Towns spoke to Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic about why he’s playing for the Dominican Republic and what it means to him to represent his mother’s native country. Towns and the Dominican Republic team got off to a strong start on Friday, defeating the host Philippines in a game that set a new World Cup attendance record (38,115), as Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press details. Towns scored 26 points in the 87-81 win.