A reality check. The test that Argentina wanted against a rival of weight, left a bitter taste, with too many conclusions to be drawn and with the feeling that it is still far from competing on equal terms against rivals with pieces of NBA hierarchy. The 99-87 loss to Canada exposed Che Garcia’s team in its lack of offensive options and defensive intensity to stop players like Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s talent or Kelly Olynyk’s power in the paint. And in this context, that the path in these qualifiers for the 2023 World Cup in Japan, Indonesia and the Philippines will be extremely complex.
And although the defeat leaves a wound to this process of Che García, in reality what he did is put a greater demand on the team for the duel next Monday, in Mar del Plata, against the Bahamas, since it will be the last game of this double elimination window and would allow him to think a little more calmly about the next date, which will be in November, with rivals like the Dominican Republic and again the Bahamas, but as a visitor. But the most complex part of the scenario is that it will be without Facundo Campazzo, Nicolás Laprovittola, Gabriel Deck, Leandro Bolmaro and Luca Vildoza.
If Argentina wanted to know where it stood, Canada was in charge of letting it understand how far it is from what it wants to recover part of the volume of offensive and defensive play that it showed when it reached the world runner-up position in 2019. A rival with several pieces NBA (Jamal Murray and RJ Barrett were not in this window) made the Argentine team uncomfortable, who did not find fluidity in the attack throughout the first half and at times suffered too much from the weight of the local team in the paint.
The signal was very clear for the team led by Che García. Very few offensive alternatives, without too many options against a very tough defense on the Argentine perimeter and subject to individual inspiration. The talent of Nicolás Laprovittola was what allowed the Argentine team to stay in the game, since the Barcelona point guard scored 22 of the 39 points scored by the national team in the first half of the game.
What was produced by Canada, who came undefeated in this tie and achieved their seventh success, was the perfect contrast, because with the help of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, the Oklahoma City Thunder player, he showed that he has variants in the attack to do damage from long distance (especially with Kassius Robertson) and that when he gets the ball into the paint he has men with good size who know how to win around the rim (Dwight Powell with 12 points and Kelly Olynyk with 21). And logically, he uncovered the absence of big men to accompany Marcos Delía, who fought alone both under the Argentine hoop and in the Canadian hoop.
García will be able to draw several conclusions from this duel, because his power is reduced to a handful of players and that was exposed much more by Canada, which had more personnel to hurt the Argentine team. Even in one of the time-outs, the Argentine coach could be heard marking something that ended up being the key to the game: “We are not being able to find our flow and thus be able to hit three, four or five balls in a row.”
But it wasn’t just about not finding the offensive dynamic, which was almost concentrated on Laprovittola (30 points), but about being able to have defensive tools to try to stop the rival. Because Canada’s start revealed how difficult it was for the Argentine team to be able to defend Gilgeous-Alexander’s talent (23 points and 8 assists), since the point guard of the Canadian team punished him with three points at will and attacked the rim when he was denied the long distance throw.
It was a game in which Argentina was really able to understand that the work must be even more intense, that it must find the necessary chemistry to carry out highly demanding matches like the one against Canada. That he cannot afford to have 15 turnovers in this type of duels, because selected from the Canadian category, with several NBA players (besides the fact that many are not part of the main rotation) they will be a nightmare.