London: Opals vs Canada Preview
Read Marc Howard's exclusive preview of the Opals final Group B game against Canada on Sunday night.
Australian Opals (3-1) vs Canada (2-2)
Tip-off: Sun 5 Aug 11:30PM AEST (Australian time/date)
TV coverage: Live on Foxtel’s London 4 & London 4 HD from 11:20PM AEST
When the Opals prepare for tip-off of their final Group B game against Canada, they will have the advantage of knowing if they are playing for first or second in their pool.
The result of one of the earlier matches that day between Russia and France will determine if the Opals still have a chance to secure the number one seed from their group. If France lose to Russia, then an Australian win would secure the Opals the number one spot if it’s by enough points.
If the French win against the Russians however then France will have gone undefeated through pool play and will clinch the number one seed.
So depending how the chips fall, the Opals could finish anywhere from first to third. And that could make a world of difference in the Quarter Finals.
The Opals can’t afford to focus on the possible scenarios however as they face a dangerous opponent in Canada.
The Canadians narrowly lost their opening game to Russia before beating Great Britain. They then lost to France by just four points before dispatching Brazil.
They are led by 185cm forward Kimberley Smith, who is averaging 13.2 points per game in the Olympic tournament. The Opals defenders had better know where she is at all times, as she clearly likes stepping out to the perimeter to shoot the trey. In Canada’s first game against Russia she nailed five of her seven three-pointers and is taking over four shots from the perimeter per game at the accurate percentage of 44.4%.
Just behind her in scoring is Shona Thorburn, a 178cm guard who plays professionally for Pays D'Aix Basket in France. Thorburn is averaging 13.0 points per game and leads the Canadians in assists with an average of 4.8 per outing.
Scoring drops off after Thorburn and Smith, with the next highest scorer being 190cm power forward Natalie Achonwa at 8.0 ppg. That lack of offensive firepower is something the Opals will need to take advantage of.
The Canadians 2-2 record is remarkable when you consider they are the worst rebounding team in the competition. Canada are averaging just 34.5 boards per game, almost a full ten less than the Opals at 43.8.
The entire Aussie team will need to hit the glass with gusto to take advantage of this Canadian weakness, particularly on the offensive end.
The Opals will have gained a huge measure of confidence from their tough win over Russia. As long as they respect their opponent in this one, they should be more than capable of getting the win.
Opals Keys to Victory
- Put rebounding pressure on the Canadians at both ends of the floor;
- Look for dribble penetration of the Canadian defence to generate more offensive rebounding options;
- Push the pace of the game to get easy transition baskets;
- Make the bigs an early target to test the Canadian interior defence.