Blowouts have been customary for Canada in the first phase of the FIBA World Cup. This is not a surprise for First-Team All-NBA guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
“We’ve been preaching for the last month that we can beat and play with anyone in the world,” said Shai Gilgeous-Alexander after their match versus France. “We’ve just got to continue to get better, and the sky’s the limit.”
The Sky is the limit for OKC Thunder star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Team Canada at the 2023 FIBA World Cup.
Canada went on a rousing start for its FIBA World Cup campaign, beating France by 30 points, demolishing Lebanon by 55, and pulling Latvia down to Earth, routing them101-75.
Having swept the tournament’s first stage for the first time in their history, the team gears for what is next with more significant goals in mind.
“We’re going to have a day off and then get ready for that fourth won game in a row,” Canada’s head coach Jordi Fernandez said in his opening statement after their win versus Latvia.
“We did not come here just to win the group stage. We came here to win the World Cup,” Nickeil Alxander-Walker, cousin of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, said. “So that’s one step further and one step closer.” the defensive aced continued.
Team Canada turned in 108 points per game in the first round — the highest mark for any team in the tournament. Stamping its presence defensively, Team Canada has only allowed 71 opponents’ points through three games.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has been at the forefront of Canada’s onslaughts in the World Cup, posting averages of 22 points, eight rebounds, and nearly six assists. He posted 27 points on games against France and Latvia and only had 12 versus Lebanon in a game Canada controlled from the word go.
Against Lebanon, Canada set a new FIBA record of 44 total assists in a game, shattering the previous mark of 37 by both Canada and Serbia in the 2019 World Cup.
All 11 Canadian players who entered the game recorded an assist or more, while six players scored at least 12 points en route to a stunning statement victory.
“I’m happy with how the numbers look like right now, the way we shot the ball, and also defensively,” said Fernandez, an assistant coach to the NBA’s Sacramento Kings.
Beating the marksmanship concerns entering the tournament, Team Canada has been one of the top three-point shooting teams in the tournament, drilling 42.9 percent of their threes on a relatively high volume of 35 attempts per game.
Canada boasts a well-balanced crew. Alongside Gilgeous-Alexander, New York Knicks star RJ Barrett plays secondary on offense, Thunder defensive ace Lu Dort, Rockets newcomer Dillon Brooks, and Alexander-Walker anchor the defense, and big men Kelly Olynyk and Dwight Powell provide a contrast of styles that equip Canada with deep offensive dimensions for this tournament.
Mentored by an up-and-coming tactician in Fernandez, time can only tell how this early positives set themselves on games that mattered the most.
Nonetheless, Canada’s wins will be carried over in the second round as they will be grouped alongside Group G’s top two teams, which most likely will be Spain and Brazil.
Whatever is next for Canada, their dominance indeed shifted the power dynamics in the World Cup from here on. “We’re not done. We’re not satisfied. We have five more games to try to go on,” said Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.