Canada’s hopes of advancing at World Cup end early with loss to Lithuania

Title: Canada’s hopes of advancing at World Cup end early with loss to Lithuania
Date: September 3, 2019
Original Source: The Athletic
Synopsis: In my latest for The Athletic Toronto, I wrote about Canada losing to Lithuania and making an early exit from the World Cup, and the need to make the most out of their remaining classification games.

If the game plan against Lithuania was to limit Jonas Valanciunas, Canada accomplished it for a little while Tuesday. As far as everything else, well, limiting Valanciunas’ statistical output was about the only thing that went well. Canada lost 92-69 to fall to 0-2, and their hopes of advancing in the World Cup are already over.

Head coach Nick Nurse joked earlier in the week about his fondness for the former Raptors centre and his desire to “kick his ass.” On paper, Valanciunas was the biggest matchup problem a thinned-out Canadian frontcourt would run into in the group stage. He’s an elite screen-setter and a mismatch punisher inside, the type of pick-and-roll big it’s tough to keep a handle on without conceding opportunities to ball-handlers. He’s one of the best rebounders in the tournament. Most notably, he stood as a major factor in the post against a Canadian team with one NBA-calibre big left on the roster.

Canada did what they could to limit him. Nurse sent double-teams if he received the ball on the perimeter and sent help blitzing from everywhere if he got the ball in the post. They treated Domantas Sabonis the same way, and it worked in some sense — the two bigs combined for just six points in the first half.

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