Headed into the Olympic Qualifiers, Team Canada was already a fan favorite across Thunder fans through two names: Lu Dort and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
As time passed by, news came swirling in that Shai would abstain from joining Team Canada’s for the Tokyo Olympics in order to further rehab his plantar fascia — but Lu Dort was all in.
Tuesday evening, Dort and Team Canada had their shot teeing off the Group A Qualifiers against Team Greece.
With Nick Nurse opting to start Lu Dort off the bench, Team Greece sprung right into action early, seizing a 23-19 lead through one — and a 50-46 lead after halftime.
For Team Canada, they looked restless through the first 20 minutes (10-minute quarters in International play. Greece remained locked in as their spread-out attack kept their leading scorer, Konstantinos Mitoglou, to 7 points while Team Canada centralized their offense to Nickeil Alexander-Walker, who ended the half with 14 points (5-of-7). On a side note, Alexander-Walker is Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s cousin, scoring definitely runs through the family.
The third quarter saw Team Canada corral a comeback primarily through Andrew Wiggins as the forward nailed a three-pointer to stake Canada into the lead at three minutes and hold on for a 74-71 lead through three.
Despite Canada sneaking into the driver’s seat, Greece was not going away in the fourth quarter. Led by former NBA players (and 2k legends) Nick Cathales and Georgios Papagiannis, Greece pivoted from being out seven points for the majority of the quarter, to being down 91-85 with 2:14 to go.
Meet Lu Dort.
Dort held his own in the final minutes of play, practically carrying Team Canada’s defense for five straight possession down the stretch. In this wave of play, Dort roamed the floor as a safety, sneaking by on fastbreaks to strip the ball or waver around the mid-range to provide help-side defense.
Those few plays proved to be just enough for Canada to outlast a previously on-fire Greece team, edging by to the tune of 97-91 for the win.
Team Greece’s Head Coach Rick Pitino made Dort’s late-game impact well known after the game, stating, “If you look at the box score you’re not going to say wow. But if you look at the film, you’re going to say this guy can play.”
As another nod to Pitino’s endearment towards Dort, Pitino offered Dort a full ride scholarship to Louisville back when he stood as the university’s head coach in 2016.
In terms of offensive production, Dort kept to himself as Andrew Wiggins and R.J. Barrett held up the load with 23 and 22 points respectively while first-half phenom Nickeil Alexander-Walker ended with 18 points. Did I already mention he’s Shai’s cousin?
Dort ended the game logging 3 points on 1-of-5 shooting with 3 rebounds in his 18 minutes. The real money-maker came in his defense as although the Montreal native places 3 fouls, he also docked 2 steals and a whole lot of disruption.
Team Canada will continue their push to Tokyo facing Team China Wednesday evening.