Canada Basketball got it done against Greece to kick off the Olympic Qualifying Tournament, coming away with a 97-91 victory.
Greece came out with an energy and attitude that caught Canada by surprise, taking a four-point lead into the half. Canada would respond well following the break, matching that intensity on defence while asserting their dominance on the offensive end.
Andrew Wiggins led all scorers with 23 points while RJ Barrett scored 18 of his 22 points in the second half. Nickeil Alexander-Walker added 18 points off the bench while Dwight Powell made his presence felt inside with 12 points and seven rebounds.
For more on Canada's first victory, we have you covered with some takeaways below.
1. Andrew Wiggins is back in a Canada Basketball uniform
For the first time since 2015, Wiggins suited up for Canada Basketball.
It was a plesant sight to see the Canadian star donning the red and white, adding some versatility, athleticism and scoring to Canada's lineup. His offensive output was very much needed, giving Canada big buckets in the second half to spark the comeback that would give them a lead they wouldn't surrender.
Wiggins was getting to the rim with ease...
Get up, @22Wiggins! 🗣️- DAZN Canada (@DAZN_CA) June 29, 2021
Watch now! 👉 https://t.co/Tz7X0GwKdA pic.twitter.com/rVBg1gcWyX
...but also had the jumper going, knocking down a handful of midrange pull-ups while also going 3-for-6 from 3-point range.
He finished with a game-high 23 points while shooting 9-for-16 from the field. He also added six rebounds, two assists and one steal, but will have to clean up the six turnovers in Canada's next game.
2. RJ Barrett massive second half
It was a quiet first half for the Canadian star but he set the tone early in the second half. Attacking with a vengeance from the get-go, Barrett asserted himself into the paint for an and-one on Canada's first possession of the third quarter.
RJ Barrett has come alive in the second half 🙌🇨🇦@Canbball #FIBAOQT- CBC Olympics (@CBCOlympics) June 30, 2021
WATCH: https://t.co/EpFTk4KNq8 pic.twitter.com/El8H2Jiv24
And as it turns out, the former No. 2 overall pick in the NBA Draft was just getting started. He chipped in seven points in the third frame alone before carrying that momentum into the fourth quarter. Barrett was unstoppable the entire second half, putting constant pressure on the rim, going right at any defender in his way.
RJ BARRETT AND ONEEEEEE! 🔥@CanBball 🇨🇦 pic.twitter.com/tmph3V0WRj- DAZN Canada (@DAZN_CA) June 30, 2021
He went on to score 18 of his 22 points in the second half, shooting 8-for-14 from the field on the night. Barrett also had five rebounds and three assists, but his 1-for-6 shooting from 3 gives him something to improve upon the rest of the way.
3. Nickeil Alexander-Walker shines in Senior Team debut
During his sophomore NBA season, we got to see a glimpse of what Alexander-Walker is capable of as a shot creator.
Coming off of the bench in this contest, he got out to a slow start in the first frame, but that all changed at the start of the second quarter. The 22-year-old erupted for eight-consecutive points, knocking down a pair of 3-pointers to bring Canada from down nine to within one. That spark was much needed for Canada's quiet offence, injecting some life into his teammates.
8 straight for Nickeil Alexander-Walker! 🔥#FIBAOQT pic.twitter.com/JiFgsDoz4a- DAZN Canada (@DAZN_CA) June 29, 2021
Alexander-Walker cooled off a bit in the second half, but the comeback would not have happened without that outburst. He finished with 18 points on an efficient 7-for-12 shooting from the field and 2-for-5 shooting from 3.
Canada will surely need Alexander-Walker to continue to provide instant offence off the bench if they will qualify for the Tokyo Olympics.
4. Canada's starting five and closing lineup
There were questions surrounding how head coach Nick Nurse would approach the starting five for Team Canada. Would he elect to play small and use a guard and forward-heavy lineup? Would he go bigger to match the physicality of FIBA play?
When the game tipped off, Canada came out with a starting five of Cory Joseph, RJ Barrett, Andrew Wiggins, Trey Lyles and Dwight Powell. That was a larger lineup than expected, with quicker guards like Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Luguentz Dort instead playing roles off the bench.
Greece took advantage of Canada coming out with two bigs in Lyles and Powell, extending the floor and knocking down a barrage of 3-pointers in the first frame to get out to a commanding lead.
Even through some defensive struggles, Nurse still went back to the same five players to begin the second half but the lineup that closed the game looked a bit different.
Down the home stretch, Nurse elected to use Joseph, Barrett, Wiggins, Powell and Dort on the defensive side of the ball, with Alexander-Walker replacing Dort on offence. It's worth keeping an eye on that to see if that will be Canada's perminent closing lineup.
5. Keeping Greece in it
Even when Canada countered Greece's first punch and eventually took the lead in the second half, Greece still wouldn't go down without a fight. They would trim Canada's double-digit lead all the way to just four points in the final minute of the game thanks to head coach Rick Pitino's full-court press.
Veteran guard Nick Calathes was the hectic presence on that press, giving his team a fighting chance after forcing a turnover late in the game. Greece's efforts would come up short, but it wasn't from a lack of heart.
Calathes was solid all game, going for 12 points and nine assists. His teammate Konstantinos Mitoglu was a force on the offensive end and on the glass, going for a double-double of 14 points and 10 rebounds. Former NBA lottery pick Georgios Papagiannis had a strong showing as well, adding 11 points and five boards.
6. What's next?
Canada will have minimal rest, taking on China on Wednesday, June 30th at 7:05 p.m. ET. Greece will have one day off before taking on China on Thursday, July 1st.
The views on this page do not necessarily represent the views of the NBA or its clubs.