Andrew Nicholson, the former Orlando Magic forward who now plays for Fujian Sturgeons in China, wore the number 44, which means “double death” in East Asia.
But it was a lucky number for Nicholson, whose 14 points and 7 rebounds for Canada was double death for China at the FIBA qualifiers in Victoria. Canada beat China 109-79 to clinch their group and advance to the semi-finals Saturday in Victoria.
“He’s a very experienced guy,” Canada coach Nick Nurse said about Nicholson, coaching him for the first time. “He’s got a unique ability to find open areas on the court. Posting up, filtering into the high post, picking and popping on a three. He can really score the ball. We’re glad that he ended up deciding to play. He’s certainly an important part of our team.”
After taking a 59-46 lead into half-time, Canada finished the game with 55 rebounds and 30 assists, compared with 37 and 14 for China, who made only 10 of 32 threes.
Nicholson had 9 points and 5 rebounds in 7 minutes of play in the first half, including a three to go up 27-19 at end of the first quarter. “Andrew seems to find the ball,” Nurse said at half-time. “They play a lot of mixed defenses. He found some creases inside and on the outside.”
Nicholson, who has been averaging more than 20 points per game in the Chinese Basketball Association, previously played in Guangdong with Hu Mingxuan, who led China with 24, followed by Qi Zhou with 14, mainly early in the game. “He played pretty active on the court for Team Canada,” Hu told Globalite Magazine after the game. “I was his teammate in the CBA. He’s a kind person. When he plays CBA, he tries to easily mingle with the team. I give credit to his personality. It was fun to play with him, and I really enjoyed playing against him.”
China’s high-tempo offense kept pace with Canada early, but China turned the ball over 5 times in the first quarter and were 1 of 9 from deep. “The Canadian team is an excellent team with 8 NBA players,” said China’s coach Du Feng. “We have a team of younger players. It was their first time representing China playing an international game.”
For the second game in a row, Wiggins led Canada, this time with 20 points, while RJ Barrett added 16, Dwight Powell 12, and Trey Lyles and Lu Dort both contributed 11 to Canada’s balanced attack.
(words and images copyright Christopher Johnson Globalite Media all rights reserved)