An eight-game slate marked the opening day of games Friday at the 2023 FIBA World Cup and several players are already making their presence felt. Big men such as Nikola Vucevic, Karl-Anthony Towns, and Jonas Valanciunas played strong in powering their teams to wins, while Patty Mills, Josh Giddey and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander shined bright in the backcourt.
Here’s a closer look at some of the top performers from games played on Aug. 25.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Canada
An All-NBA performer last season, Gilgeous-Alexander had his full array of skills on display as Canada dominated France 95-65 in winning its Group H opener. The third quarter proved decisive for Canada and Gilgeous-Alexander put on a scoring showcase with 13 points in the frame. Overall, Gilgeous-Alexander notched 27 points, 13 rebounds, six assists, and two steals as Canada’s defense limited France to 42% shooting and a 6-for-28 showing on 3-pointers. Gilgeous-Alexander and Houston Rockets guard Dillon Brooks provided an effective combination on both ends in the FIBA opener as New York Knicks standout RJ Barrett (five points, 1-for-10 shooting) struggled.
Patty Mills & Josh Giddey, Australia
Australia’s guards ran wild in its 98-72 win against Finland in Group E play, but Mills and Giddey were perhaps the most impactful. Mills, now with the Atlanta Hawks, delivered 25 points, eight rebounds, and four steals in 28 minutes. Giddey was also impactful as the Oklahoma City star put up a stat line Thunder fans are used to seeing: 14 points, nine rebounds, and eight assists in 25 minutes. New Dallas Mavericks guard Dante Exum was solid off the bench with 10 points for Australia while Utah Jazz star Lauri Markkanen finished with 19 points, eight rebounds, and four assists in a losing effort for Finland.
Nikola Vucevic, Montenegro
Vucevic, a former All-Star, showed off his variety of skills in a 91-71 win against Mexico in Montenegro’s opener in Group D play. The Chicago Bulls big man was sizzling, finishing with 27 points on 11-for-15 shooting and a 3-for-3 mark on 3-pointers. He added 10 rebounds and two blocks as Montenegro outrebounded Mexico 35-28 and used a late third-quarter run to put the game away.
Karl-Anthony Towns, Dominican Republic
In a thrilling Group A matchup, the Dominican Republic scored an 87-81 win against the Philippines behind the play of Towns. He was simply too much for the Philippines’ frontline to handle as the Minnesota Timberwolves star dropped in 26 points, went 15-for-16 from the line and snagged 10 rebounds, many of which came during a tight fourth quarter. Towns’ performance at the line was crucial as the Dominican Republic struggled overall as a team from there (23-for-34) and would have shot 44.4% (8-for-18) from the line were it not for Towns’ performance. The Philippines stayed in the game mostly due to the hot shooting and scoring of Jazz star Jordan Clarkson, who finished with 28 points (9-for-14 shooting), seven rebounds and seven assists before fouling out in the fourth quarter.
Mo Wagner, Germany
Wagner is usually known as a solid role player with the Orlando Magic, but in Germany’s 81-63 romp against Japan in its Group E opener, he played the role of star. He was particularly dominant in the first half as Germany built a 53-31 lead, setting the tone with his strong drives to the basket and his rebounding work. Overall, Wagner finished with 25 points (10-for-14 shooting) and nine rebounds and was strong at the line with an 8-for-9 showing.
Jonas Valanciunas, Lithuania
Lithuania had a few problems powering to a 93-67 win against Egypt in the Group D opener for both squads. The credit for that easy path goes mostly to Valanciunas, who kept Friday’s run of dominant big-man play going with a 15-point, 10-rebound showing in 17 minutes as he ran roughshod over Egypt throughout the first half with interior baskets, tough rebounds, and some interior defense, too.