Congratulations to the Bahamas National Team on the biggest win in team history after a great run all week, led by NBA players Deandre Ayton, Eric Gordon, and Buddy Hield.
The Phoenix Suns center grabbed 21 boards in what looked much more like what I was expecting going into the first game against Argentina; a tough group that’s established and connected with each other who plays hard for all 40 minutes. That tough group did enough early to give themselves a 7-2 start, 26-22 first quarter, and 42-42 halftime score.
Ayton’s shot struggled similarly to Saturday’s performance, missing seven of his eight first-half shot attempts. He even tried a couple threes in the first quarter — one from the corner that careened off the side of the backboard and one that rimmed out from the top of the key.
The Bahamas had Ayton’s seven rebounds as well as the 5-7 combined three-point shooting of Eric Gordon and Travis Munnings to thank for staying so close in the game, tied at the break.
Ayton then had a very eventful third quarter, though the pendulum never stopped moving from positive impact to negative:
- He flushed home two early dunks, but turned it over soon after.
- He gets beat in pick-and-roll defensively, but finds a bucket on the other end.
- He set a screen that Gordon hit a three over, but puts forth a low-effort contest soon after, giving up a bucket.
After all the pendulum swinging, Bahamas went into the fourth down 59-63 with some work to do to stay alive for Paris. They rushed out to a 7-2 run to start the final frame of this Pre-Qualifying Tournament, prompting an early timeout from Argentina to cool the momentum.
Bahamas took a timeout up two with 5:34 to go where Ayton brought out the leader voice.
Ayton took over from there, tallying even more rebounds to reach an absurd total of 21 rebounds (five offensive) for the game. An emphatic putback dunk kicked off the run, and Gordon hit clutch three after clutch three to seal the deal for the Bahamas:
- 2:38 to take a 1-point lead
- 1:32 to take a 2-point lead
- :20.2 to take a 5-point lead
Argentina falls to the Bahamas for the second time this week, this time, 82-75, clinching the Bahamas a spot in next July’s final Olympic Qualifiers. Final stats for the Suns:
- Ayton: 10 points (5-14, 0-2 3P), 21 rebounds, and one assist in 38 minutes
- Gordon: 27 points (8-13, 6-7 3P), three rebounds, and three steals in 34 minutes
Speaking on Gordon for a second since I haven’t done so all that much this week; he was exactly what I was expecting and in some cases even more. I knew the three-point ball would be lethal, though maybe was surprised at how consistently deep he was. I knew how he used his strength on drives, but I wasn’t expecting him to average 6 FTA per game.
Really a great week for him, averaging 20.3 points on 55/65/83 shooting splits in his 27.9 minutes per game.
As for Ayton, I really came away impressed at how he’s able to find other ways to be effective when the offense isn’t coming easily. Plus, turning a 1-8 start into a 5-14 day is a solid turnaround in that department, going 4-6 in the second half. Even more to the point, Ayton’s NBA career-high for rebounds is 21, and he was able to match that in a FIBA game, which is no joke.
Ayton looks ready for Frank Vogel on both ends. Plus, this added opportunity for conditioning (as well as chemistry with Gordon) will do wonders once we get into camp here in about five-six weeks.