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Tiebreaker Times

2023 FIBA World Cup

FIBA: SGA shines anew as Canada rampages through Group H

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander continues to solidify his MVP case as he propelled Canada to a commanding 101-75 victory over Latvia, completing a sweep of Group H in the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 on Tuesday at the Indonesia Arena in Jakarta.

All-NBA First Team member Gilgeous-Alexander posted an all-around performance of 27 points, six rebounds, six assists, and two steals, leading the Canadian squad to a perfect group stage record of 3-0.

As the group stage comes to a close, the Road Warriors emerge as Group H’s first seed, while Latvijas Basketbola Izlase secured the second spot heading into the Round of 16.

The Road Warriors carried over their first-half form, launching an 11-4 run against Latvijas Basketbola Izlase. This surge was fueled by two three-pointers from Minnesota Timberwolves guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Phil Scrubb, resulting in a significant 17-point advantage, 78-61.

After trailing by 12 points at the end of the first quarter, 23-35, Canada’s deep roster of NBA talent orchestrated a 20-7 run to turn the tide against Latvia. They took a one-point lead, thanks to a buzzer-beating layup from New York Knicks guard RJ Barrett, with the score standing at 43-42.

From the second to the fourth quarter, the Road Warriors outscored Latvijas Basketbola Izlase by a significant 32-point margin, finishing 84-52.

Barrett complemented SGA’s offensive firepower with 22 points and five rebounds, while Utah Jazz forward Kelly Olynyk and Alexander-Walker contributed 15 and 14 points, respectively. Dallas Mavericks forward Dwight Powell and Houston Rocket Dillion Brooks combined for 12 points, whereas Oklahoma City Thunder (OKC) forward Lu Dort didn’t see action due to precautionary injury measures.

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Missing the services of team captain Dairis Bertans due to a partial left hamstring tear for the rest of the World Cup, Andrejs Grazulis led Latvia in the loss with 16 points. Rodions Kurucs achieved a double-double of 14 points and 10 rebounds, along with four assists and two steals. OKC big man Davis Bertans recorded seven points, five rebounds, and two assists.

In an earlier match, Los Angeles Clippers forward Nicolas Batum drained a crucial triple for France to prevent Wael Arakji and Lebanon from securing a win, resulting in an 85-79 escape.

With the win, Les Bleus emerged as Group H’s third seed with a 1-2 record, while the Cedars concluded the group stage campaign without a win.

After Arakji converted his free throws to narrow the deficit to three points, 82-79, Batum sank a corner triple with 32 seconds remaining to secure a victory for Les Bleus, with the final score being 85-79.

Before the 34-year-old NBA veteran’s clutch heroics, France was unable to break a 65-all deadlock in the fourth frame. They managed to pull ahead with a 9-0 run, spoiling Lebanon’s aspirations of winning their first WC game since 2010, ultimately finishing at 74-65.

The Cedars remained competitive, reducing a 74-82 deficit to a three-point gap through timely contributions from Hayk Gyokchyan, Amir Saoud, and Arakji, making the score 79-82.

Despite Arakji’s impressive 29 points, three rebounds, and four assists on a 65-percent shooting clip, his efforts went in vain. Only two other Lebanese players scored in double figures, with Ali Haidar achieving 12 points and Omari Spellman with 10.

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Due to the absence of the Minnesota Timberwolves center due to an ankle injury, New York Knicks forward Evan Fournier led France to their first win in the global showcase with 17 points, two rebounds, and four assists. Guerschon Yabusele contributed 18 points and three boards, while Batum added 12.

Both teams will continue to compete in the classification phase of the World Cup, starting on Thursday at the same venue in Indonesia. (Ernest Martin Tuazon)

The Scores:

First Game:

France (85) Yabusele 18, Fournier 17, Batum 12, Okobo 12, Cordnier 10, Ouattara 6, De Colo 5, Francisco 3.

Lebanon (79) – Arakji 29, Haidar 12, Spellman 10, Saoud 8, El Darwich 8, Zeinoun 7, Ezzedine 0, Mansour 0, Mezher 0.

Quarterscores: 19-20, 38-37, 58-59, 85-79

Second Game:

Canada (101) Gilgeous-Alexander 27, Barrett 22, Olynyk 15, Alexander-Walker 14, Brooks 6, Powell 6, Scrubb 6, Alexander 3, Edey 2, Ejim 0, Bell-Haynes 0

Latvia (75) – Grazulis 16, R. Kurucs 14, Zagars 11, Smits 9, Zoriks 8, Davis Bertans 7, A. Kurucs 6, Cavars 0, Zagars 0.

Quarterscores: 13-23, 43-42, 67-57, 101-75

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