(Josh Williams/Los Angeles Lakers)
Svi Mykhailiuk Stars for Ukraine in Upset Over Spain
Svi Mykhailiuk hadn’t played for the Ukrainian National Team in four years, but now his home country won’t want to go another day without him.
The rookie Laker was brilliant in Ukraine’s stunning 76-65 victory over previously unbeaten Spain, racking up 22 points, five 3-pointers, five steals and three assists to score a crucial win in qualification for the 2019 FIBA World Cup.
Most of Mykhailiuk’s damage came from his trademark 3-point shooting, as the Cherkasy native hit more than half of his nine attempts from deep.
He splashed an assortment of triples, hitting a couple off screens, another pair while spotting up and one ridiculous trey off his own dribble.
.@UkrBasket have come out from the locker room ! @Sviat_10 leading the charge! #FIBAWC #ThisIsMyHouse@Lakers— Basketball World Cup (@FIBAWC) September 14, 2018
But as Myhkhailiuk showed during the NBA summer league, he is more than just a shooter.
The 21-year-old was excellent defensively, containing his man on the ball and hunting down five steals.
On the other end, he showed a bit of his ball handling and playmaking abilities. In particular, he had a nice feed to Hawks center Alex Len out of a pick-and-roll, plus a Lonzo Ball-esque full-court assist at the end of the game.
Mykhailiuk last played for his home country during the 2014 FIBA World Cup, receiving sparing minutes back when he was only 17 years old. This time, he played a key role in potentially bringing Ukraine back to that stage.
Spain kept the game close before Ukraine took control in the final frame. Mykhailiuk had eight points, two assists and a block in a fourth quarter that saw his team outscore its opponent, 20-12.
Mykhailiuk finished with twice as many points as his closest teammate, lifting the home team’s offense in the victory over a Spanish side that entered Ukraine’s capital city, Kiev, with a sparkling 6-0 record.
points on 5-of-9 from beyond the arc for @Sviat_10 who paced @UkrBasket's offense in their #FIBAWC 2019 European Qualifiers win over @baloncestofeb !— Basketball World Cup (@FIBAWC) September 14, 2018
With the victory, Ukraine improved to 4-3 in qualification, taking sole possession of fourth place in its group standings.
The top three teams in each group qualify for the World Cup, and Ukraine have another crucial matchup on Monday against Montenegro.
There are only five more games left in qualification, and since the final four take place during the NBA season, this will be Mykhailiuk’s last opportunity to increase his nation’s chances of a World Cup berth.
Monday’s game will be played at 11:15 a.m. PT, and broadcasted on ESPN+ and LiveBasketball.TV.
Zubac, Croatia Fall in Slugfest with Lithuania
It was a frustrating night for Ivica Zubac, who was hampered by foul trouble in a crucial game for Croatia.
With Zubac joined by fellow NBA players Dario Saric, Bojan Bogdanovic and Ante Zizic, the Croatian national team faced a 6-0 Lithuanian side that had won all of its games by at least 15 points (and one by 56).
Despite a fourth-quarter rally in front of their home crowd, Croatia were unable to ever seize the lead, as Lithuania squeezed out an 84-83 win.
Zubac finished the night with 11 points, four rebounds and three blocks, as he was limited to only 21 minutes played due to three first-half fouls.
The 21-year-old center did what he could with his short playing time, anchoring Croatia's defense with good rim protection and running the floor for most of his scoring opportunities. He scored six points in the fourth quarter, including a dunk that cut the deficit to two with 1:37 remaining.
But Croatia could not halt the Lithuanian offense, as Zubac and co. fell to 3-4 in the European qualifiers, putting them in a three-way tie for fourth place in their group.
They face Poland on Monday at 12 p.m. PT for Zubac's last opportunity to help his national team before the NBA season begins. Croatia have five games remaining to crack the top three of their group in order to qualify for next year's World Cup.