Quarter-Final preview: Canada v Slovenia goes beyond Shai v Luka
MANILA (Philippines) - All of the attention will be on the two MVP frontrunners in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Luka Doncic, but Canada and Slovenia have plenty more to offer in their quest to reach the FIBA Basketball World Cup Semi-Finals for the first time ever.
The game starts at 9:30 a.m. ET and 6:30 a.m. PT for the fans in Canada, 14:30 CET for the fans in Slovenia, and 20:30 local time in the Mall of Asia Arena in the Philippines' capital.
Key matchup: Last season, the two superstars went head-to-head twice, and if we told you that Luka Doncic's 31-point, 16-rebound, 10-assist triple-double was probably the weakest stat line in those matchups, you would get a clear picture how good these guys are.
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Shai Gilgeous-Alexander averaged 40.0 points, 6.0 assists, 4.0 rebounds and 2.5 steals while shooting 29-of-50 from the field in two games against the Dallas Mavericks last season. Luka Doncic averaged 34.5 points, 13.5 rebounds, 9.0 assists and made 24-of-29 free throws in two games against the Oklahoma City Thunder last season.
Overall, they are 4-4 against each other in their NBA careers. Doncic has 26.4 points, 7.4 rebounds and 6.8 assists at this World Cup, Gilgeous-Alexander is at 23.8 points, 6.6 rebounds and 5.2 assists so far.
X factors: While everybody expects the stars to give their usual contribution, the question remains who does that one extra push, one last sprint, one more boxout for the rebound among the role players.
For Canada, Dillon Brooks' fourth quarter against Spain is a clear indicator what could happen, especially because of all the emotions Brooks brings out of his teammates, who seem happier for him to score than for anybody else.
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For Slovenia, Klemen Prepelic could be that man. He's scored in double figures in all games so far, but his passing is not talked about at all, when he's capable of dishing out 7 assists in 24 minutes, which is what he did against Cape Verde in the Group Stage.
Stats don't lie: Slovenia do most of their damage inside the arc, with third-best percentage of 65.2 from two-point range in this World Cup. Meanwhile, Canada are also third, but in three-point percentage at 40.3 accuracy over the first five games.
If Slovenia can match that percentage of outside shooting, or if Canada can match Slovenia's inside looks, their chances of winning would be that much higher.
Past matchups: Canada and Slovenia met only once in an official FIBA game. Back in 2008, at the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Athens, Greece, Slovenia won the game 86-70, but both teams failed to reach the Olympics, finishing behind Greece, Croatia and Germany.
There were three more friendly games, Slovenia winning all of them (87-72 in 2006; 86-71 in 2010; 92-80 in 2014) to have a perfect 4-0 record against Canada.
They said: "We will definitely have an extremely interesting game against Canada. During the Group Stage, Canada showed some impressive performances and we will get to know them as much as possible over these few days. For all eight teams in the Quarter-Finals, the World Cup starts over now. We're all starting from scratch, and I'm sure we'll have an interesting finish ahead of us in Manila." - Aleksander Sekulic, Slovenia head coach
"Going to the Olympics, it's very special. It's very special for the program, but for these guys, what they've done since August 1, it's great, but now we have to keep thinking about the next game. We have three more games to go (at the World Cup). We didn't come here just to go to the Olympics. I told the guys we want to make sure that everybody knows we're knocking at the door and we're thirsty for more." - Jordi Fernandez, Canada head coach
Here are more features written about Canada:
Here are more features written about Slovenia: