The final set of 2023 FIBA World Cup Classification games concluded early Saturday morning. Rudy Gobert led France to a win in their final World Cup, while Kyle Anderson (Li Kaier) and China suffered another loss against the Philippines to wrap up their WC campaign.
Here’s a recap of the two games:
Rudy Gobert (France)
France, led by NBA veterans Evan Fournier (New York Knicks), Nicolas Batum (Los Angeles Clippers), and, of course, Rudy Gobert (Minnesota Timberwolves), came into the 2023 FIBA World Cup as one of the teams to beat. However, this summer has been different for Team France in the 2023 FIBA World Cup.
Following an 87-77 win over Cote D’lvoire on Saturday, France wrapped up their underwhelming World Cup campaign as they finished with a 3-2 record. Rudy Gobert, the Les Bleus’ main Frenchman in the middle, had his best game for his home country on Saturday — finishing with 17 points and 8 rebounds on 7-of-8 from the floor in 21 minutes. Gobert was also a +19.
Again, for a team that was hoping to come out on top in the World Cup and qualify for the 2024 Olympics, finishing with a 3-2 record is far from what Team France expected. However, international play is very unpredictable. From an outsider's point of view, it seemed every opponent France faced knew how good their team was and just outworked Les Bleus on both ends.
At the end of the day, regardless of the final outcome, representing countries where these players have deep roots means so much to them. After France played their last game, Gobert shared a heartfelt social media post.
Des hauts, des bas, tout ça fait partie de l’aventure, c’est ce qui la rend unique, et pour rien au monde je ne la changerai, merci à tout ceux qui en font partie, de près ou de loin. Le chemin continue ❤️ https://t.co/Et4FIMlKiO— Rudy Gobert (@rudygobert27) September 2, 2023
Translation: Ups, downs, it’s all part of the adventure, that’s what makes it unique, and I wouldn’t change it for anything in the world, thank you to everyone who is part of it, from near or far. The path continues.
Switching back over to the NBA crowd, more specifically the Timberwolves crowd, Gobert’s 2023 World Cup campaign should be viewed as a win — the Tower of Power stayed healthy. Gobert missed one WC game due to an ankle issue but was active in the following game. After the knee injury he suffered with France in Eurobasket last summer, there was some weariness surrounding Minnesota’s fanbase when Gobert committed to play this summer. However, Gobert was able to stay healthy and looks in great condition for this upcoming NBA season.
Highlights from France’s win on Saturday:
Kyle Anderson (China)
Similar to France, Team China didn’t have an Ideal 2023 World Cup campaign. However, when looking at China’s roster, it was obvious that they didn’t have the same level of expectations. Aside from Kyle Anderson, Li Kaier, the only Chinese player with any NBA experience is 7-footer Zhou Qi, who was a member of the Houston Rockets from 2017-19.
China’s final game came as a 96-75 loss against the Philippines on Saturday morning. It was a competitive match between the two, but coming out of halftime, Jordan Clarkson put the game on his back as the Philippines outscored China 34-11 in the third quarter alone. Clarkson finished the game with a dazzling 34 points on 11-of-18 from and the floor 5-of-10 deep.
Kyle Anderson, Li Kaier, caps off his first World Cup with China in a 96-75 loss against the Philippines.— Charlie Walton (@CharlieWaltonMN) September 2, 2023
Kaier's stat line:
• 17 points
• 9 rebounds
• 5 assists
• 6/15 FGM
• 5/5 FTM
• 33 minutes
Li Kaier had far from a perfect 2023 World Cup campaign. However, he did exactly what he is accustomed to — leading and offense and making good reads on both ends of the floor. This World Cup slate for Slo-Mo has made me realize something; Anderson is a player who needs to be surrounded by great players to reach his maximum potential. I guess that’s not earth-shattering news, but it was obvious that Kaier couldn’t be a team’s top-scoring option, especially at a World Cup level of play.
China's poor shooting % has been par for the course during this World Cup. With a lack of iso scorers, China has been relying on steals and fastbreak opportunities to generate offense.— Charlie Walton (@CharlieWaltonMN) September 2, 2023
When Kaier has the ball in his hands, better things happen for the halfcourt offense. https://t.co/Il7DEPcvuX
Despite Kaier’s overall low numbers, it was great to see him compete at a high level after undergoing extensive eye surgery earlier in the summer — an injury that kept him out of Game 5 against the Denver Nuggets in the first round of the NBA Playoffs.
Highlights from China’s loss to the Philippines: