On Day 3 of the 2023 FIBA World Cup, four Minnesota Timberwolves players saw the floor including Karl-Anthony Towns (Dominican Republic), Matteo Spagnolo (Italy), Nickeil Alexander-Walker (Canada), and Rudy Gobert (France).
Here are some of the Timberwolves highlights from around Day 3 of the 2023 FIBA World Cup.
Karl-Anthony Towns (Dominican Republic)
Today, Towns went up against Italy and 2022 Wolves second-round pick Matteo Spagnolo. He had another stellar game, dropping another double-double with 24 points, 11 rebounds, and 5 assists. He had a much more efficient shooting game, going 7/15 from the field including making four of his nine three-pointers.
With KAT leading the way, the Dominican Republic beat Italy 87-82, bringing them to 2-0 for the tournament.
The three-time All-Star’s performance should be very encouraging for Wolves fans as he continues to get stronger coming back from his calf injury last season. He has shown a lot more burst driving to the rim, something that was largely missing down the stretch of last season.
Along with his play inside the paint, it should come as no surprise that Towns was able to be productive from the perimeter, making four 3-pointers. KAT was not afraid to shoot from way beyond the arc, as a couple of his threes were a few feet behind the line.
KAT’s readiness to shoot the three is something Wolves fans hope will carry over into the NBA season. Towns has always been a great shooter, but in this tournament, the former No. 1 overall pick has more often been willing to take step-back and pump fake 3-pointers, something he doesn’t as often do in NBA games.
With the win, Towns and the Dominican Republic lead Group A with a 2-0 record. They will have a chance to win the group with a win over their next opponent Angola on Tuesday at 3:00 AM CT.
Matteo Spagnolo (Italy)
On the other side of the matchup with Towns was Italy and Wolves draft pick Matteo Spagnolo. The 2022 second-round pick again played sparingly, only getting on the floor for eight minutes. Spagnolo made one of his two field goal attempts, grabbed a rebound, and went 2/2 from the free throw line.
One of the two baskets came with Towns as the defender with Spagnolo coming off a screen and making a pull-up jumper in front of Towns’ drop defense.
Nickeil Alexander-Walker (Canada)
Canada continued their stellar play in this FIBA World Cup with a 128-73 win over Lebanon on Sunday, bringing them to 2-0 for the tournament. Wolves guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker came off the bench for Canada, playing 15 minutes, scoring 12 points, and dishing out seven assists.
Just like in the game against France on Friday, all 12 of NAW’s points came off of 3-pointers, as he made four of his seven attempts in the game. He is now up to eight 3-pointers made in the tournament, shooting 53.3% from beyond the arc.
NAW shot only 36.1% from downtown in 23 games for the Wolves last season, so it is very encouraging to see him shoot so well from distance early on in this World Cup.
Another bright spot from his game was the seven assists. This upcoming season, the Wolves will look to find some extra playmaking coming off the bench behind starting point guard Mike Conley. If this game is any indication, NAW may be in line for some backup point guard minutes this upcoming season.
Canada has a lot of NBA talent on their team including NAW’s cousin Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. So, unlike Towns, NAW will be playing a relatively similar role to the one he will have with the Timberwolves.
The Wolves will hope that the shooting and playmaking ability NAW has shown so far in the World Cup will carry over for the NBA season as both of those skills are needed on this Timberwolves roster.
The next game for Canada comes on Tuesday at 8:30 AM CT against Latvia.
Rudy Gobert (France)
The 2023 FIBA World Cup went from bad to worse for France as on Sunday, they lost to Latvia 88-86 in a shocker, falling to 0-2 for the tournament. France, one of the favorites to win the entire tournament, is now eliminated before even playing their final Group Stage game.
Gobert didn’t have the best game offensively, scoring only nine points while taking and making one shot from the field. While Gobert is not the biggest offensive threat, having him limited to only one shot says a lot about why France was not able to win this game.
The lone offensive bright spot from Gobert was that he was able to get to the line eight times, making seven of them. Given Gobert’s lack of offensive creation ability, having him be able to get to the line and make free throws would be a good sign for the Timberwolves’ offense.
Gobert had good defensive numbers grabbing seven rebounds along with three steals and two blocks. Even with Gobert playing solid defense Latvia was able to double-up France in points in the paint 36 to 18.
There was some angst among Wolves fans that Rudy was playing in this tournament at all given he started last season slow after playing in EuroBasket 2022. Now, with France eliminated early, the risk of Rudy starting slow this season due to his international play should be greatly diminished.
France will look to avoid finishing last in their group against Lebanon on Tuesday at 4:45 AM CT.