Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is coming off a profession 12 months within the NBA. Now he’s placing on a present on the worldwide stage on the FIBA World Cup.
When he completed final season with an absurd 31.4 factors per recreation for the Oklahoma Metropolis Thunder, SGA completed atop the All-NBA voting amongst guards, edging previous four-time 1st-teamer Luka Doncic. The 2 guards joined Steph Curry (2021) as the one gamers since 2017 to make All-NBA First Crew with out additionally making the NBA Playoffs.
Now on the World Cup, the 2 lead two of probably the most dominant groups within the area with gold medals and MVP honors of their sights. Due to a extra supportive workforce context than what Doncic has with Slovenia, Gilgeous-Alexander is the one most deserving to this point, and Crew USA must be apprehensive.
Canada vs France stood out among the many early video games on this event as one of many extra marquee matchups; one workforce, France, being extra established in worldwide play rostering a number of NBA gamers whereas the opposite, Canada, isn’t as used to the worldwide stage however is hungry led by much more NBA gamers.
France led after the primary, 18-14, and had been inside three on the half, however the recreation acquired away from them in a rush as head coach Jordi Fernandez, a Sacramento Kings assistant, had SGA and the Canadians prepared for the third, which they gained 25-8. SGA tallied 13 factors and two assists within the body.
Particularly in that quarter, Gilgeous-Alexander didn’t have any downside attending to the rim at will in half-court units towards a really actual protection that features 3-time NBA Defensive Participant of the Yr Rudy Gobert in addition to different robust defenders with worldwide reputations like Nic Batum, Nando de Colo, and Guerschon Yabusele.
He actually continues to make his case for “Greatest Driver on the Planet (who isn’t damaged like Giannis)”. On this recreation, his deceleration stood out, which opens up probabilities to bait defenders with in-and-out strikes, jab steps, and step-backs.
The third quarter explosion was sufficient to propel Canada to a 95-65 win to make a press release of their opener. The most important takeaway from this one being simply how straightforward SGA makes the sport look it doesn’t matter what he’s doing.
Lebanon was all the time going to be the punching bag of the group, although it was enjoyable to see Omari Spellman get after it a number of years faraway from his nationwide championship workforce at Villanova. This second recreation gave Fernandez and the Canadian workforce context an opportunity to point out their stuff.
Canada shot blisteringly nicely from deep, 18-of-30 (60 %), led by Trae Bell-Haynes of the Spanish League, who made 5-of-6 from three-point vary. In addition they shared the ball just like the World Cup has by no means seen, setting an all-time report with 44 assists. SGA had 5 of these, however he largely took a backseat on this recreation, taking part in solely 17 minutes.
The 128-73 last rating is the most important margin of victory to this point within the event this 12 months, and was 12 factors shy of cracking the all-time high 5 (fifth was Soviet Union beating Colombia in 1982 by 67).
Canada had their worst begin of group play of their third and last match, going up towards undefeated-at-the-time Latvia, who hit three threes within the first two minutes alone, forcing Fernandez’s hand to name an early timeout. Latvia led 23-13 after one; Canada down, however definitely not out.
Down the stretch of the third quarter towards Latvia, Gilgeous-Alexander put collectively a really spectacular sequence. Canada expanded their lead out to 9 earlier than a plethora of errors got here down, together with back-to-back turnovers by Nickeil Alexander-Walker in addition to an offensive foul from Dwight Powell.
Up by only one with 3:21 left within the third, SGA began to take over. Beginning with a fadeaway mid-ranger, Gilgeous-Alexander scored or assisted on six of the following seven Canada possessions. That one-point lead was as much as double-digits for the primary time all recreation.
Canada wanted a harder recreation like this earlier than shifting on, as a result of the primary two video games offered little or no problem by way of psychological toughness. SGA proved he has the fortitude to climate powerful begins towards powerful groups the place his teammates appear to be falling aside.
Regardless of these three consecutive turnovers by teammates, he was in a position to put Canada in place to win 101-75.
Due to an advantageous draw, the earliest that Crew USA would even need to see Canada is the semifinals. That provides head coach Steve Kerr and the Individuals sufficient time to type out everyone’s roles and determine which matchups work finest towards Fernandez and Canada.
The matchup that might give Kerr complications? Gilgeous-Alexander towards the world.