McGee, Deng Perform Well in NBA Africa Game 2018

On Saturday afternoon in Africa, three Lakers took part in a special NBA event in Johannesburg, South Africa, the NBA Africa Game 2018, in which Team World edged Team Africa 96-92.

New Laker JaVale McGee started at center for the World team, while Luol Deng started on the wing for Africa. Meanwhile, legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was in attendance as an ambassador of the game as several NBA players put on a show and raised money for charity.

The game capped off what was a week full of events, including the Basketball Without Borders Africa 2018 camp, a safari that players raved about, and a series of community events. It was the third NBA Africa game, and profits supported charities such as the Nelson Mandela Foundation, The Boys and Girls Club of South Africa, SOS Children’s Villages South Africa (SOSCVSA) and UNICEF.

McGee jumped the opening tip with Team Africa’s Joel Embiid, and grabbed a few early rebounds, notched an assist and even pulled up for a pair of top-of-the-key three-point attempts, both of which missed. But in the second quarter, McGee turned into a scoring machine, which helped team World build a double-digit lead. The two-time NBA champ went up for his first attempt at an alley-oop, but the play was broken up by Ian Mahinmi.

That was the last time McGee failed to score for a while, as he quickly got Bismack Biyombo to bite on a pump fake from 18 feet, and hit two ensuing free throws. On the next possession, McGee leaked out in transition and threw down an uncontested dunk. Moments later, McGee drained a corner three. All seven of his points came in the period, to go with a pair of boards, an assist and a block.

Meanwhile, Deng got things going on both ends in the second quarter, scoring four of his eight points for the half in the last two minutes of the period to help get Team Africa within seven points at 54-47 at halftime. Deng added a pair of steals and a rebound to help Africa stay in the game.

McGee picked the scoring back up to start the third quarter with a jump hook in the paint, while Deng had an emphatic put-back dunk moments later. Then in the fourth quarter, Deng fed Embiid for an and-1 layup that kept Africa in the mix, within six at 83-77, a lead that nearly went to nine when McGee’s 3-point attempt went halfway down and out. Instead, Deng came up with another steal and finished a layup to cut the margin to just four at 83-79 with 4:40 left.

But guess who made consecutive key plays to snap the 6-0 run? Yup, JaVale McGee. First he tapped out an offensive rebound after a good defensive possession from Africa, straight into the hands of an open Khris Middleton, who drained a three. Then McGee cut to the basket for a big one-handed dunk to push Team World to a 90-83 lead.

McGee finished with 11 points on 4 of 10 field goals, four boards, two assists and a block in 17 minutes. Deng totaled 14 points on 6 of 10 shooting, plus three boards, three steals and an assist and was +9 for the day.

Of course, the real winners were the kids in attendance that got to watch their heroes in person. That’s a special part of the Basketball Without Borders program: there have now been 54 camps in 27 countries on six continents, and 78 of the top boys and girls from 29 African countries took part in this year’s version. In fact, over the years, 55 participants in the BWB have been selected in the NBA Draft (10 from Africa), including many of the players participating in the game, including Embiid (24 points, eight rebounds), Danilo Gallinari (23 points on 9 of 10 shooting to earn MVP honors), Mahinmi and Biyombo.