Canada's road to Tokyo is underway with a win over Greece in their first game of the Olympic Qualifying Tournament.
Behind 23 points from Andrew Wiggins and 22 points in a big second half from RJ Barrett, Canada was able to overcome an early deficit to complete the comeback against Greece.
MORE: Wiggins, Barrett explode as Canada downs Greece | Running Diary: Canada's comeback win over Greece
And while Wiggins and Barrett will rightfully grab headlines for their dominant performances, Canada's comeback may not have been possible if not for the offensive output from Nickeil Alexander-Walker off the bench.
Canada got out to a slow start offensively, which paired horribly with a poor defensive showing in the first half. Greece was scoring on nearly every offensive possession and Canada needed a jolt to keep the score close early in the second quarter.
Alexander-Walker provided that spark, rattling off 10 quick points (including a stretch of eight in a row) to start the second frame and bring his country within one and give his team some life.
8 straight for Nickeil Alexander-Walker! 🔥#FIBAOQT pic.twitter.com/JiFgsDoz4a- DAZN Canada (@DAZN_CA) June 29, 2021
The 22 year old would go on to score 18 points while shooting 7-for-12 from the field and 2-for-5 from 3-point range in his Senior National Team debut, giving Canada exactly what they needed in this game.
Although Alexander-Walker didn't crack the starting lineup, his role on this team is vital as Canada isn't exactly loaded with pure scorers. While Wiggins can certainly be that guy, and it appears Barrett is ready to step into a prominent offensive role as well, the country is still looking to fill the offensive void left behind from injured absent players like Jamal Murray and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
That gives Alexander-Walker the opportunity to fully showcase the promising glimpses we saw during his sophomore NBA season. While he only scored 11.0 points per game, the Toronto native stepped up any time his New Orleans Pelicans needed him to fill a bigger role with someone out.
He went off for a career-high 37 points against the LA Clippers. That was one of three times he crossed the 30-point threshold, going for 31 points against the Orlando Magic and 30 points against the Golden State Warriors. Add three more 20-point games into that mix and you can see how the rising young player can be an effective scorer when he has opportunity.
Last time out against the Clippers, @NickeilAW dropped a career-high 37 points on 65% shooting 🔥 pic.twitter.com/iRvSGB3NyO- New Orleans Pelicans (@PelicansNBA) March 14, 2021
On this version of the Canadian National Team, they need Alexander-Walker to confidently step up as a prolific shot-maker. Because he had the hot hand against Greece, that opened the floor for Wiggins and Barrett to be able to attack the rim more comfortably.
Alexander-Walker was able to take the lid off the basket for the entire team in the first half and his offensive prowess was rewarded when the stakes were at their highest.
Down the stretch in the fourth quarter, head coach Nick Nurse closed the game with Alexander-Walker on the floor on offence. Alongside starters Wiggins, Barrett, Cory Joseph and Dwight Powell, it was the 22-year-old Alexander-Walker getting the nod on the offensive side, with another 22-year-old in Luguentz Dort getting the call on defence.
What we saw from Nickeil Alexander-Walker in his first-ever game for the Canada Senior National Team is exactly what will be needed of him if his country is going to advance to the Tokyo Olympics.
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