Everything we learned from FIBA 3x3 Riyadh Masters 2022
14 Nov 2022
RIYADH (Saudi Arabia) - After the FIBA 3x3 World Tour 2022 returned in style with an epic Riyadh Masters, let's debrief as this exciting season nears the finish line.
Riga have to be rated No.1 right now
Ub Huishan NE (SRB) took 3x3 to new heights after they absolutely dominated the first half of the season. Now it's Riga's (LAT) turn with the Latvians an incredible 25-0 on the pro circuit since superstar Karlis Lasmanis returned.
They seem to have a 3x3 cheat code because Riga keep escaping defeat after narrow wins against Omaha 3BALL (USA) in the semis and then Ub in a blockbuster final that didn't disappoint.
Riga have importantly gained a psychological edge over Ub as the showpiece Abu Dhabi Final looms. There's clearly not much between them, but Riga keep finding a way to beat the very best teams in 3x3 to add to the aura of these four legendary Olympic gold medalists.
Teams will have to find new ways to stop maybe 3x3's greatest ever duo - Karlis Lasmanis and Nauris Miezis, who combined for a whopping 71 points and both were in the top 3 for player value.
Ub earlier in the season weren't afraid to publicly state their desire to chase Novi Sad's legendary 35-game win streak in 2018-19. But it might be Riga who are starting to dream of the record books having now won 15 straight on the World Tour.
What else is there to say about Nauris Miezis? The man known as 'Robin' is surely the greatest clutch performer in 3x3 history.
And he must feel invincible right now after his second straight MVP on the World Tour and, much like in Cebu, Miezis was scorching hot in the final with a masterclass of 10-points, 10 rebounds and a series of big shots.
In the star-studded game, featuring maybe the two most talented players in Strahinja Stojacic and Karlis Lasmanis, it was the 6ft. 3in (1.90m) gunner who shone brightest with Miezis scoring his team's last 7 points, including the Maurice Lacroix buzzer beater from way downtown.
Maybe the discussion of best 3x3 player alive needs to start with Nauris Miezis after his continual late game heroics.
The Americans have made real progress this season having won their first title on the pro circuit at the Quebec Challenger and two World Tour semi-final finishes, including in Riyadh.
They upset Antwerp (BEL) in their opener in a statement win and almost knocked out Riga in a classic semi-final. Omaha have all the ingredients to be one of the very best teams on the pro circuit.
Dylan Travis, who was part of USA's gold meal winning team at FIBA 3x3 AmeriCup 2022, is the emotional heartbeat and loves pumping up his teammates. He's also a walking bucket who poured in 35 points, including a game-high 11 against Riga as he went toe-to-toe with Lasmanis.
Travis packs a punch alongside excitement machine Malik Hluchoweckyj, who fooled countless opponents with his dizzying handles as part of a tournament leading 22 highlights.
A fun group of guys, Omaha are natural born entertainers but they're also building confidence. You feel a first ever triumph on the World Tour isn't far away.
The inconsistent version of Antwerp returns
Every so often, Antwerp produces a disappointing result almost out of nowhere. Earlier in the year, they shockingly exited after Day One in Manila while they also lost in the quarters at Lausanne and Utrecht.
Around that, of course, there has been a lot of positive performances for one of the best teams in 3x3. But the inconsistent version of Antwerp emerged in Riyadh with the Belgians tasting defeat in 2 of 3 games although it was no disgrace losing a tight quarter-final to Ub.
Thibaut Vervoort was once again 'Must See TV' with 22 points in 3 games but he didn't have enough support. If they want to be at the absolute elite level of Ub, Riga and Liman then Antwerp have to be consistent all season round.
Riyadh sparkled at hosts
For the fourth straight year, the FIBA 3x3 World Tour returned to Saudi Arabia which has become a popular destination due to its mix of culture, heritage and passionate fans, who packed the stands in historical Diriyah on the north-western outskirts of capital Riyadh.
With Jeddah having memorably hosted the last two World Tour Finals , Saudi Arabia clearly knows how to put on a 3x3 show.