Pascal Siakam and Serge Ibaka teamed up at the third ever NBA Africa Game in Pretoria on Saturday, an event held to further spread the game in Africa, use sport as a uniting force, and support the Nelson Mandela Foundation in honor of his centenary. Over 400 NBA players, executives, alumni, and other personnel were present throughout the week, which was punctuated by the third meeting between 19 NBA players split between Team World and Team Africa.
The Toronto Raptors’ forwards couldn’t help change Team Africa’s luck. Team Africa lost a fun, competitive, and tightly played game to Team World, 96-92. Team Africa had never won the game before and Bismack Biyombo was adamant in a pre-game address that this was the year for the host side. Instead, Team World improves to 3-0 all-time in these meetings.
Ibaka drew the start ahead of Siakam at power forward, roles both are familiar with. Ibaka also immediately turned the ball over, which was an unwelcome flashback to the playoffs. He quickly settled in and scored five of Africa’s first seven points, including a nice and-one. Siakam eventually hit the floor, too, and looked like perhaps the best point guard in such a big-heavy game, but the World managed to get out to a 27-20 first-quarter lead despite the best efforts of the Raptors and 10 early lead changes.
— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) August 4, 2018
Offensive touches would be hard to come by for Siakam in the first half, as he managed just one missed field goal despite doing nice work on the glass. The team is so big he was basically a two/three, without exaggeration here (he was playing alongside Ian Mahinmi and Bismack Biyombo at one point). Ibaka, too, was frozen out after his hot start, and the clear anti-Raptors bias on the part of head coach J.B. Bickerstaff cost Team Africa. They remained behind, 54-47, at the half, clearly without an answer for JaVale McGee’s 3-point shooting.
Team Africa struggled out of the break, too, somehow getting worked on their own glass despite employing almost exclusively defensive rebounders. Ibaka’s struggles were emblematic, as he missed a three, corralled his own rebound, and then missed a drive, although Luol Deng was able to put back the second miss. A turnover and a Joel Embiid dunk-and-one followed, stringing together Africa’s best run since the game’s opening minutes and pulling them back within four. The intensity picked up from there, with John Collins taking the business end of a hard foul – it also happened to be Embiid’s fourth – and after a tough Siakam miss in the paint, the World pulled ahead 12 on a Hassan Whiteside triple. Again, the counterpush came, and Siakam and Timothe Luwawu-Cabbarot went back-to-back with coast-to-coast drives for layups off of stops.
— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) August 4, 2018
Team World still held a 78-68 lead heading into the fourth, and Team Africa got hit with another loss between quarters – four children called out Joel Embiid for a game of 4-on-1 officiated by surprise special guest referee Dikembe Mutombo, and when they scored, the NBA and NBPA donated $200,000 to the Nelson Mandela Foundation.
Siakam once again made a lengthy drive for a tough finish, and Luwawu-Cabbarot followed him with another once again. It’s a tag-team punch I didn’t know I needed until now. Africa managed another 6-0 run midway through the quarter, sending Team World to a timeout with their lead down to four and four minutes to play. The timeout by Ettore Messina worked wonders, as Team World came out on a 5-0 push to firmly take control back, only for Team African to get into the bonus and hang on to hope of a late comeback. Ibaka drew the assignment in the closing minutes while Siakam sat, and it was Al-Farour Aminu making it a one-possession game on a nice cut. Embiid really wanted the victory, rumbling to the rim and the free-throw line multiple times late, but Danilo Gallinari’s near-perfect game matched him nearly shot-for-shot.
Out of a Team World timeout, Aminu stripped Gallinari of the ball to secure a turnover, only for Embiid to turn it back over at the other end trying to break down Whiteside. Another stop gave Africa a chance with the shot clock off, and Evan Fournier and Aminu both missed looks at game-tying triples. They’d get yet another shot, this time down four out of a timeout with five seconds left, and again they couldn’t get it done, with Embiid missing a late heave at a three.
— NBA (@NBA) August 4, 2018
Eventually, Team Africa will win one of these. It wasn’t meant to be this time, and Team World’s 96-92 victory saw Gallinari earn Most Valuable Player honors. Masai Ujiri had to hand the award over to Gallinari, who scored 23 points on just 10 field-goal attempts, and surely he would have preferred handing it to a Team Africa player, particularly one of his Raptors.
Ibaka played 23 minutes and finished with seven points on 3-of-8 shooting with three rebounds, one assist, and a plus-7 mark, while Siakam scored four points on 2-of-5 shooting in 14 minutes, adding seven rebounds and finishing a game-worst minus-12.
Here are full highlights from the game:
And here is some assorted social media from the NBA’s incredible week in Africa:
Two absolutely fantastic ambassadors of African sport these are in @sergeibaka and @LuolDeng9. Phenomenal athletes and great guys. The @NBA really gets right the culture of their athletes’ respect for the fans and for the game. #NBAAfricaGame pic.twitter.com/Ut6ZD0VA5d
— Jermaine Craig (@JermaineCraig07) August 3, 2018
— MATTER (@MATTER_ngo) August 3, 2018
“These guys inspired me not only to be a great basketball player but also a better person. Now I continue to work hard everyday to prove myself & want to inspire you guys.”
— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) August 1, 2018
— Carmelo Anthony (@carmeloanthony) August 3, 2018
— Official Blue Bulls (@BlueBullsRugby) August 2, 2018
— NBA Africa (@NBA_Africa) August 2, 2018
Here’s a great piece from Seerat Sohi at SB Nation on Masai Ujiri’s involvement in this event and many others like it.
Have a great weekend, everyone.