Andrew Nicholson has put up some gaudy statistics for Canada these past few weeks at FIBA Americas Championship. Behind those numbers was some trouble. It may not have been trouble for Canada. It was trouble for Nicholson.
Friday it was trouble for both. Or at least, they correlated (that is a word Nicholson would understand as a physics major).
Nicholson picked up three fouls in the first quarter and fouled out in the second half. He played in less than 10 minutes and scored two points. In those 10 minutes, he committed five turnovers.
The Magic's power forward has been a key offensive player for Canada, helping spread the floor and provide some stability offensively with Cory Joseph, Brady Heslip and Andy Rautins on the outside. This was putting too much pressure on Tristan Thompson and Joel Anthony to provide the post scoring.
Canada trailed by 14 points at one point in the fourth quarter and made a big comeback to make it close. The host Venezuela though held on for the upset. A 13-0 run made it tight, but Venezuela won 64-59.
[Nicholson is] one of our better players and one of our leading scorers so to have him not really be able to play in this game, that hurt us," said Canada coach Jay Triano. "We're a very young team and our age is very young compared to the Venezuela team and I think experience showed today.
Indeed inexperience did hurt Canada as Nicholson, who has flirted with foul trouble in several games this tournament, finally struggled staying on the court. Canada clearly has the talent to advance to the World Cup next summer, now they have to execute to get there.
This game may have been somewhat expected. In a tournament setting with so many games in so few days (Canada has had only two days off since the tournament began last week), teams are going to lay eggs. Spain has already lost to Slovenia in Eurobasket and, today, Argentina lost to Jamaica.
This loss is not a death knell by any means. Canada still sits in second place behind Puerto Rico in Group X play. The game against Argentina still looms, but it is the final game for Canada and a World Cup spot should — SHOULD — be wrapped up by then.
For the Magic though, Nicholson's recurring foul trouble raises some minor concerns. Nicholson was not a great defender last year and the fouling suggests he is late on rotations or late moving to get into a good defensive position. Nicholson's defense could still use improvement as observed at Summer League and at FIBA Americas.
The second-year player still has a lot of work to do for sure.
Canada got a painful reminder and a growing pain in losing to the host Venezuelans. There is still a lot of basketball to play and nothing is assured.