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The Best Five of the Asian Qualifiers' fifth window
MANILA (FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 Asian Qualifiers) - The Asian Qualifiers' fifth window promised a ton of excitement and drama, and boy did it deliver in spades.
In the span of less than a week, a couple of upsets rocked the competition, the team standings were shaken up big time and the race for the last four spots at the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 just got even more heated.
For now, however, let's put the spotlight on the most productive players who showed their wares in the fifth window, leading their respective teams to big wins and etching their names in Asian Qualifiers lore.
Nick Fazekas (Japan)
Stats: 30.5ppg, 12.5rpg, 2.5spg, 1.0bpg, 65.8 FG%
Some people were worried about Japan's competitiveness without young studs Rui Hachimura and Yuta Watanabe, but Fazekas put all those doubts to rest with his virtuoso play. The 33-year-old naturalized center just carried Japan on his broad shoulders and extended their winning run to six games. He punctuated his brilliant fifth window play by unloading 41 points on Kazakhstan en route to an 86-70 victory.
Yi Jianlian (China)
Stats: 15.0ppg, 7.5rpg, 2.0apg, 3.0spg, 65.0 FG%
Yi finally returned to action in the Asian Qualifiers, and he certainly wasted no time making his presence felt in two successful home stands for China. He was near-perfect from the field against Syria and was in sharp form against Lebanon, further underscoring the fact that he remains one of the best big men in the continent. If Yi continues to play at a high level for China, look for them to end the Asian Qualifiers on a very strong note in the final window.
Alex Zhigulin (Kazakhstan)
Stats: 26.5ppg, 6.0rpg, 4.5 triples per game, 51.7 FG%
Everyone knew Zhigulin was a very good player, but nobody expected him to be an absolute beast in the fifth window. He caught the Philippines off guard on 30 November when he hit 6 three-pointers and scored 30 points at the MOA Arena as the Steppe Wolves pulled the rug from under the hosts. He followed it up with a 23-point effort as the Kazakhs kept in-step with Japan for most of their 3 December encounter. It sure seems like Kazakhstan found their new superstar.
Tom Abercrombie (New Zealand)
Stats: 16.5ppg, 3.5rpg, 1.0bpg, 3.5 triples per game, 60.0 FG%
Without some of their bigger names, the Tall Blacks had to look elsewhere for scoring, and Abercrombie ably filled the void. The 6ft 6in (1.98m) wingman was ultra-efficient for New Zealand in the fifth window, hitting 4 triples and scoring 18 points against Jordan and then connecting thrice from beyond the arc en route to scoring 15 points as they cruised past Syria. Talk about stepping up big time and helping your team clinch a spot at the World Cup next year.
Lee JungHyun (Korea)
Stats: 17.0ppg, 2.5rpg, 5.0apg, 3.0 triples per game, 54.5 FG%
This veteran shooting guard was exactly what the doctor ordered for Korea. Knowing that frontliner Ra GunA would take care of business in the paint, Lee took it upon himself to lead Korea's barrage from the perimeter. His streak of having at least one made triple in each Asian Qualifiers fixture remains intact, and he even added a healthy number of assists to his production. The 31-year-old has really emerged as one of the most dependable combo guards in FIBA Asia.
Ra GunA (Korea) - 18.0ppg, 14.5rpg, 45.4 FG%
Stanley Pringle (Philippines) - 29pts, 4asts, 3rebs, 2 triples
Guo Ailun (China) - 13.5ppg, 4.5rpg, 4.0rpg, 1.0spg, 55.0 FG%
Jason Cadee (Australia) - 10.5ppg, 3.0apg, 2.0rpg, 2.5 triples per game, 63.6 FG%