Following a tight win against Spain, 88-85, over the weekend, Minnesota Timberwolves guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Team Canada matched up with Slovenia Wednesday morning to decide who gets the final semifinal spot in the 2023 FIBA World Cup.
Per usual, Alexander-Walker came off the bench for Canada and was their seventh man. He subbed in late in the first quarter and made his impact felt immediately as he stripped the ball from Slovenian forward Klemen Prepelic, which started a fast break, resulting in a wide-open triple for Canada’s Luguentz Dort.
Plug and play.— Charlie Walton (@CharlieWaltonMN) September 6, 2023
Nickeil Alexander-Walker subs in the first and immediately makes his impact felt with a steal that led to a transition triple.
NAW was the primary ball handler in the first. Made some great reads in the half-court and transition off the bench.
A joy to watch. https://t.co/scVKWLyAhq
As the first frame continued to roll on, more of the same was shown from NAW. As I pointed out, he has been a plug-and-play guard off Canada’s bench all tournament long. Whatever his team needs from him, he has done it at an extremely high level. That ability to impact the game instantaneously off the bench is something we saw from him through his first 28 games with the Timberwolves last season.
As we approach the start of the 2023-24 season, Alexander-Walker’s glue-guy, do whatever is needed mindset will be paramount. After an off-season in which the Wolves added guard Skake Milton and forward Troy Brown Jr. while losing guard Jaylen Nowell and forward Tauren Prince, NAW will need to fill in on and off the ball on game-to-game or even possession-to-possession basis.
The more I see of NAW this summer, the more I see of his ability to play on and off the ball.— Charlie Walton (@CharlieWaltonMN) September 6, 2023
Shake Milton can be a 1 or 2-guard and will need to be both off the bench to be effective. NAW will be able to fill in for whatever position Milton isn't manning -- expanding his role. pic.twitter.com/Bnf80gg2xG
Circling back to Canada’s 100-89 over Slovenia today, NAW played 12 straight minutes after checking in with around two minutes left in the first — he was on the floor for the entire second quarter. This is a longer stint than normal for him, but you can’t argue with the discussion to leave NAW in for as long as Canada Head Coach Jordi Fernandez did.
It was a back-and-forth game between Canada and Slovenia in the first half. However, after Luka Dončić was ejected, things started to lead in the Canadian favor. A large part of Canada keeping the game close while Dončić was commanding the offense was thanks to Alexander-Walker’s balanced play. Of course, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s 31-point performance had something to do with that, but so did NAW’s 14 points on 3-of-6 shooting from deep.
Nickeil Alexander-Walker with a 12-minute-straight stint off the bench this morning.— Charlie Walton (@CharlieWaltonMN) September 6, 2023
Can't argue with the decision to keep him out there for the entire 2nd quarter -- he was making some incredible reads.
Halftime: 10 pts & 3 rebs on 4/6 from the floor. https://t.co/wLkExrF7Ef
Highlights from the game:
Looking ahead, Canada’s semifinal matchup against Serbia will take place this Friday, September 8th, at 3:45 a.m. CT. Streaming will be available on courtside1891.com and ESPN+.