Canada meets Czechs in semifinal of must-win Olympic basketball qualifying event

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VICTORIA — Canadian Dwight Powell says he's fully healed from the torn Achilles tendon that kept him out of much of the NBA basketball season and is now making up for lost time with a dominant performance at a must-win Olympic qualifying tournament.

The Dallas Mavericks forward spoke Friday ahead of Canada's do-or-die semifinal matchup with the Czech Republic, saying he's feeling excellent physically and is relishing the opportunity to represent his country.

Powell, who has been earning praise for his rebounding at both ends of the court, says the boards have been one of Canada's primary focuses since Day One of training camp.

Canada's head coach Nick Nurse, who also coaches the NBA's Toronto Raptors, says the Canadian team has come a long way in a short time and the players are focused on winning at Victoria's Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre on Saturday.

Canada must win both the semifinal against the Czech Republic and Sunday's final to book its first Olympic appearance in 21 years.

The Canadians have already defeated Greece 97-91 and China 109-79 en route to the semis.

Eight NBA players — including Nickeil Alexander-Walker (New Orleans), Trey Lyles (San Antonio), Mychal Mulder (Golden State), captain Cory Joseph (Detroit), Luguentz Dort (Oklahoma), Andrew Wiggins (Golden State), RJ Barrett (New York) and Powell — are on the roster, widely considered the most-talented Canadian men's basketball team in history for this week's tournament on home court.

The 12-man roster is rounded out by Trae Bell-Haynes, Anthony Bennett, Aaron Doornekamp and Andrew Nicholson.

Canada, ranked No. 21 in the world, is in Group A with Greece and China for the six-team tournament that started Tuesday. Group B is made up of Uruguay, Turkey and the Czech Republic.

There are three other last-chance tournaments happening in Croatia, Lithuania and Serbia this week to determine the final Olympic spots.

The Canadian women's team, ranked fourth, earned its third-consecutive Olympic berth last February.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 2, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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