Joel Embiid entertained the crowd, and ended with a game-high 24 points, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot hit timely three-pointers and ended with 16 points, and Luol Deng enjoyed his time on the floor, pouring in 14 points in 23 minutes; but Team World used balanced scoring, and Danilo Gallinari came to the party with 90 percent shooting, as Team World won a third straight NBA Africa Game 96-92.
The ‘Rooster’ Gallinari showed what’s in store for the Los Angeles Clippers fans next season by making nine of the 10 shots he attempted, including a late dagger that completed 100 percent shooting from range that capped a remarkable evening; his 23 points led Team World as he finished as the game’s MVP.
Dallas Mavericks star Harrison Barnes scored 14 points and added 11 rebounds as he was the only player to record a double-double. The quartet of JaVale McGee, Marvin Williams, Garrett Temple, and Hassan Whiteside all scored 11 points apiece. Khris Middleton contributed 10 points, to bring the number of players with double figure scoring on Team World to seven.
The much-anticipated game began with Joel Embiid winning the tip-off and handing possession to Team Africa, but it was Team World that got off to a breezy start with the first points coming from a Danilo Gallinari layup, with Rudy Gay assisting.
The two teams then traded buckets until the final two minutes of the first quarter, when Team World went on an 8-0 run, with both sides tied at 19, to take a 27-19 lead with 34 seconds left in the quarter. Bismack Biyombo sank one of two free throws to bring the score to 27-20, but neither would score again in the remaining 34 seconds, as the half closed.
Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot sank a three-point shot early in the second quarter to reduce the deficit to just four points, and Biyombo’s running lay-up shot kept it at four points after Hassan Whiteside’s turn-around hook-shot had again increased Team World’s lead to six points. It was Team World that kept finding pockets of little runs, to take a 10-point lead at 45-35 on a Gallinari dunk with just a little over four minutes left in the quarter.
Williams increased the lead to 12 points for Team World on a trey as the scoreboard read 52-40 with 1:45 left in the second frame, before a three from Luwawu-Cabarrot, a Deng driving lay-up and a pull up jumper from Embiid reduced the score-line to 54-47 at half time.
The third quarter ended with Team World leading by 10 points at 78-68, the first time in the history of the series that they’d be in the lead entering the fourth quarter. Team Africa led by 17 in 2015, and they were tied at 77 at the end of the third quarter in 2017. The closest Team Africa got to Team World was when Embiid completed a three-point play with 6:14 left in the quarter, to bring the score to 61-57.
The last quarter became more intense in the dying when Al-Farouq Aminu’s driving layup brought Team Africa within three points at 90-87 with just over two minutes left in the game. However, Gallinari sank a step back jumper to take the lead back to five, and then nailed a dagger trey after Embiid had cut the lead back to three points at 95-92. That happened with just under two minutes left. An Embiid turnover with 43 seconds left ended the hopes of Team Africa, and Middleton sealed victory for Team World when he sank one of two Free Throws, to bring the score to 96-92.
It was a superb game in Pretoria with the close to capacity arena treated to a tightly fought battle between two teams who wanted victory. The NBA Africa Game yet again delivered a spectacle that African fans will savour for years to come.