Canada-Venezuela, Argentina-Mexico for Olympic men’s basketball spots
Canada can clinch its first Olympic men’s basketball berth since 2000 on Friday, while Argentina could qualify for its fourth straight Olympics.
Canada, led by NBA Rookie of the Year Andrew Wiggins, faces Venezuela in Mexico City in the FIBA Americas semifinals at 7 p.m. ET.
Argentina, which has played the U.S. in the last three Olympic semifinals, faces Mexico at 9:30 p.m.
The winners of both games will join the 2014 World champion U.S., Brazil, Australia and Nigeria in the Rio Olympic men’s basketball field that will eventually include 12 teams.
The losers will get another chance to make the Olympics at a global, last-chance qualifying tournament in July, one month before the Games.
Canada last played in the Olympics in 2000 with Steve Nash, who is now retired. It went 6-1 in preliminary play at FIBA Americas, beating Venezuela 82-62 last Thursday, and has several NBA players on its team, including Wiggins, Cory Joseph, Anthony Bennett and Nik Stauskas.
Venezuela, with no NBA players on its roster, squeaked into the semifinals by going 3-4 in preliminary play. Its previous Olympic appearance came in 1992.
Argentina, the last team to beat the U.S. at the Olympics and the 2004 gold medalist, went 6-1 in preliminary play despite not having stalwart Manu Ginobili, who has said he is likely done playing in international competition. Its team is led by 2004 Olympic champions Luis Scola and Andres Nocioni.
Mexico, which hasn’t qualified for an Olympic basketball tournament since 1976, also went 6-1 and has one NBA player on its team, Milwaukee Bucks backup point guard Jorge Gutierrez.
Mexico beat Argentina 95-83 on Wednesday night, setting up Friday’s rematch.
Puerto Rico, which also beat the U.S. at the 2004 Olympics, finished fifth at FIBA Americas and also advanced to the global, last-chance qualifying tournament.
The Dominican Republic, which played in three winner-goes-to-London games in 2012 Olympic qualifying and lost them all, finished sixth and will not advance automatically to the last-chance tournament, though there are wild-card spots available. Atlanta Hawks All-Star and Dominican Al Horford skipped FIBA Americas.
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