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GRANADA, Spain (Aug. 18, 2023) – Canada’s Senior Men’s National Team dropped a 94-88 decision to the Dominican Republic on Friday to close out their five-game exhibition schedule with a 3-2 record in advance of the 2023 FIBA Men’s Basketball World Cup.

Limiting their starters, head coach Jordi Fernández used the team’s final exhibition tune-up to get a closer look at his reserves as they all received extended play.

“It was a game to make sure that we gave minutes to everyone,” Fernández said. “We had to be smart with our minutes, especially with the first group after playing an overtime game in a back-to-back. Obviously it’s not very realistic, because there’s not going to be back-to-backs in the tournament so we wanted to keep building physically, and obviously, to compete and I think we did.”

Canada was led by a 13-point performance from Lu Dort and 12 points from Trae Bell-Haynes. The Canadians also received 10 points apiece from Dillon Brooks and RJ Barrett. 

Karl-Anthony Towns led the Dominican Republic with 20 points while LJ Figueroa also added 20 points, mostly scored in the final frame.

The game was extremely close throughout, with the Dominican taking a one-point lead, 27-26 after the opening 10 minutes following a three in the final seconds from Antonio Penz. Things remained close through the second quarter, as a brilliant euro-step from Nickeil Alexander-Walker tied the game at 31 points apiece, forcing the Dominican Republic into calling a timeout.

After a three from Towns and a turnaround jumper from Lester Quinones put the Dominican Republic in front by six, Barrett and then Brooks took turns scoring for Canada. After Kelly Olynyk stood in to take a charge with 2:02 remaining in the half, Canada had an opportunity to further trim the deficit. A three-point play for Barrett brought Canada within a point at the half, 48-47.

In the second half, Canada switched its lineup to its reserves, allowing the coaching staff to get a final look at their full roster before the final group of 12 players who will represent Canada in the World Cup will be announced.

“Our starters played the first half and then our second group probably had the best stretch in that third quarter,” Fernández said. “I’m happy that we still found a way to be there and that’s the most important thing.”

Canada’s reserve lineup kept the pace in the third. After Victor Liz completed a three-point play to put the Dominican Republic up four, Zach Edey responded with an easy bucket inside and then Alexander-Walker brought Canada within a point after making one of two free throws.

A pull-up three in transition, also from Alexander-Walker, moved Canada back in front 53-52 with seven minutes remaining in the third. Canada would go ahead by six on a three-pointer from Dort, but the Dominican Republic made up the difference and the two teams traded scores and leads to close out the third until Bell-Haynes connected on a pair of free throws with 3.5 seconds remaining in the quarter to tie the game up at 66 heading into the fourth.

A flurry of points from Figueroa in the final frame helped the Dominican Republic to pull away as they built a 12-point lead midway through the quarter. Canada didn’t stop pushing, though. Free throws for Dort trimmed the deficit to 10 points. A layup, also for Dort, brought Canada within eight. After Bell-Haynes scored off of his own miss, it was a six-point game with 4:20 minutes remaining. 

The Dominican Republic continued to score, but a bucket from Dort and then a huge three from Phil Scrubb trimmed the deficit to three points with 51.1 seconds remaining.

Jean Montero banked in a long three to extend the lead back to six points for the Dominican Republic with 28.3 seconds remaining, but a three for Bell-Haynes brought Canada back within three with 24 seconds remaining. With 19 seconds remaining, Towns extended the lead to five with a pair of free throws to seal the victory for the Dominican Republic.

With their five-game exhibition schedule in the books, Canada now has a week for final preparations before their first game at the World Cup.

“I think we’re ready to go,” Fernáqndez said. “I think that we still have work to do and that’s to be expected. We don’t have experience in this kind of tournament as a group, and we’re young, but I trust the guys in the way that they’ve been working. I know we’re going to go there and fight every single game.

“All you can do is give yourselves a chance and right now, this group, I have no doubt in my mind we’ll accomplish what we’re going to do.”

Canada will open their World Cup campaign against France on Friday, Aug. 25 at 9:30 a.m. ET / 6:30 a.m. PT, before matchups with Lebanon and Latvia to close Group H play. Canadians can catch all of the action all World Cup long live on Sportsnet.


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