The USA will debut against New Zealand on Saturday, but here is a wrap-up of the opening day of action at the FIBA World Cup.
Canada 95, France 65
This is the Canadian team that the rest of the world feared — the one that is a threat to win a medal. Maybe a gold one.
After a slow first half, Canada pulled away in the third quarter behind a dominant 27-point, 13-rebound, six-assist performance from the Thunder’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander to pick up what proved to be a comfortable win.
Canada took charge with a 22-4 third quarter run, fueled by their defense (particularly on Evan Fournier, who had a hot first half but got only one bucket after halftime). With Dillon Brooks and Lu Dort, Canada has the best perimeter defenders in the World Cup and it proved to be the difference in this game.
Kelly Olynyk scored 19 for Canada and Nickeil Alexander-Walker added 12. Fournier finished with 19 points to lead France but was a -28 for the day. Nando De Colo finished with 12 points for France, while Rudy Gobert had eight points and nine rebounds.
Canada is now in the driver’s seat to win Group H. France has a must-win game against Latvia on Sunday.
Dominican Republic 87, Philippines 81
In front of a FIBA record and raucous home crowd of 38,115 in Manilla, the Dominican Republic pulled away late to beat the host Philippines.
Karl-Anthony Towns led the way for the Dominican with 26 points and 10 boards, talking over the game at points. However, the real turning point came when Jordan Clarkson of the Philippines fouled out with 3:32 to go and his team down 3 — without the Jazz’s former Sixth Man of the Year, the Philippines could not generate any good offensive chances.
A couple of the calls on Clarkson were flat-out bad, but welcome to FIBA officiating (both sides dealt with it in this game, the Dominican got the better of it by being the aggressors most of the night).
Clarkson finished with 28 points for the hosts, and June Mar Fajardo added 16. Victor Liz scored 18 for the Dominican.
Australia 98, Finland 72
Australia made its case as a medal threat in this tournament with a dominant opening performance against a good Finland squad. Patty Mills led the way with 25 points in a throwback performance.
The Thunder’s Josh Giddy had an impressive all-around game with 14 points, nine rebounds and eight assists. Joe Ingles scored 13 and Dante Exum added 10 points for Australia. Lauri Markkanen led Finland with 19 points,
Germany 81, Japan 63
Germany was in control from the opening tip and cruised to a win behind 25 points from the Magic’s Moritz Wagner, with new Raptors point guard Dennis Schroder adding 14 points and five assists.
However, the story of this game was injuries. Germany’s Franz Wagner left the game after rolling his ankle and he will get an MRI. However, he could be out for Germany’s critical group game Sunday against Australia. Germany will need to beat Australia or Finland (led by Lauri Markkanen) on Tuesday to advance out of Group E.
Also, the Suns’ Yuta Watanabe led Japan with 20 points but appeared to tweak his hamstring on a dunk.
Italy 81, Angola 67
This was an ugly shooting game, with the two teams combining to shoot 9-of-61 from 3 (14.8%). Utah Jazz forward Simone Fontecchio led Italy with 19 points and his team picked up a solid opening night win. Stefano Tonut added 18 for Italy, while Angola was led by Childe Dundao, who scored 18.
Montenegro 91, Mexico 71
This was the Nikola Vucevic show as he took charge early and went on to score 27 points with 10 rebounds, and with him Montenegro was in control from the start.
Latvia 109, Lebanon 70
Latvia went on a 15-0 first half run — fueled by hot 3-point shooting — to take control of this game early. Davis Bertans scored 10 but his brother, Darius Bertans, led Latvia with 20 points.
Lithuania 93, Egypt 67
Lithuania led by 14 points after one and made one more push in the fourth to cruise to an opening-day win. Jonas Valanciunas had 15 points and 10 rebounds for Lithuania, which was led by 18 from Margiris Normantas. Assem Marei had 14 to lead Egypt.