One question for every top team at FIBA 3x3 World Tour Hong Kong Masters

21 Nov 2022

HONG KONG - There is plenty at stake at the FIBA 3x3 World Tour 2022 regular season finale in Hong Kong, as the best teams aim for momentum ahead of the Abu Dhabi Final.

Let's ask a burning question to the world's top eight teams, who will be fighting for the title in Hong Kong.

Ub Huishan NE (SRB): Has their confidence been shaken?

Ub looked unbeatable in the first-half of the season, but have not won a Masters from their last four tries, including a tight loss to rival Riga in a classic final in Riyadh.

Even though they lost, you sense Ub are starting to hit their stride again in an effort to peak in time for the Abu Dhabi Final. They still have a lot of confidence and deservedly remain No.1 after an incredible season.

But with every defeat they lose just a little bit more of that invincibility they had built earlier in the season, but a win in Hong Kong can help them regain some swagger.

Liman (SRB): Have they fallen behind rivals Ub and Riga?

Probably the most consistent team on the World Tour over the last five years, Liman haven't done a lot wrong in 2022. They went all the way in Utrecht and have a strong overall record of 20-7 plus four Challengers titles.

The Serbs still have their famous big guns firing, while athletic Aleksandar Ratkov has gone up a level to be seventh overall in player value.

Yet it feels like they have been surpassed by their rivals Ub and Riga, who have both gone on major runs on the World Tour this season. Liman will be aiming to prove in Hong Kong that they are still at that absolute top level before attempting to defend their World Tour Final crown.

Antwerp (BEL): Will they be hot or cold in Hong Kong?

Make no mistake, Antwerp are very good and got the monkey off their back by winning the Debrecen Masters. The talent is obvious led by the irresistible Thibaut Vervoort aka 'Must See TV' who sits third overall in player value.

And he has plenty of help in a well-rounded team, but Antwerp are sometimes prone to lapses. They shockingly exited on Day 1 in Manila, while they have also fallen three times in the quarters.

Their record of 15-10 should be better and they have a winning percentage well below the big three of Ub, Riga and Liman.

Will they be hot or cold in Hong Kong? Time will tell.

Riga (LAT): Can they keep their streak going?

It really is getting ridiculous. Riga are 25-0 on the pro circuit since the return of superstar Karlis Lasmanis, including three Masters titles.

These battle-tested warriors have achieved everything over the years but they've never had a prolonged run like this. Everything is clicking perfectly with Riga looking like they have a cheat code and they basically do with Nauris Miezis probably never going to miss in the clutch.

It's going to take something special to end Riga's win streak as they eye Novi Sad's 35-game record in 2018-19.

Amsterdam HiPRO (NED): Can they end their title drought?

It's been over a year since Amsterdam won a title on the pro circuit and time is running out in 2022 to end their drought. Nonetheless they've had a strong season by making at least the semis in 8 of 11 tournaments but ultimate success had eluded them.

They've got all the ingredients with Dimeo van der Horst a stats machine and he leads the World Tour in double-fives with seven, while Arvin Slagter has the best 2-point % at an insane 47.7%.

They'll need to fire in Hong Kong because the talent in 3x3 has gotten better making it harder for a very good team like Amsterdam to breakthrough for titles.

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Vienna (AUT): Can Stojacic's amazing comeback continue?

It would feel almost too cliché if this was a Hollywood sports movie, but Stefan Stojacic's comeback from a serious knee injury really has been what dreams are made of.

The ex-Liman star's legendary career appeared over until he defied logic and returned to the half-court, where peak 'Mr Robot' was back dominating and hitting buckets from almost every angle.

With a crazy 7.8 ppg, boosted by his masterpiece of 50 points during his MVP performance in Paris, Stojacic has the second highest average behind Lasmanis for those who have played more than 10 games.

There is always concern over whether he has enough left in the tank, but Stojacic is proving that his love for 3x3 is helping mask some of the lingering pain he experiences in his knee.

Sakiai Gulbele (LTU): Are Pukelis and Uzupis 3x3's most underrated duo?

Quite simply, yes. They might not be as flashy as others, but Aurelijus Pukelis and Marijus Uzupis are combining for 12 ppg and shoot at 41% and 34% respectively from deep.

They've been lights out to lead Sakiai's charge back to a contender in 2022, where they've won three Challengers titles and had deep runs at the Montreal and Utrecht Masters.

With two snipers capable of shooting twos like they're free throws, Sakiai are always a threat and they enter Hong Kong red hot.

Ulaanbaatar MMC Energy (MGL): Can they win a first-ever Masters title?

You know how much this means for the Mongolians, who have bet big on 3x3 and it's paid dividends with the country falling head over heels for the half-court game.

They're taking this serious as underlined by Ulaanbaatar MMC Energy travelling around the world to appear in 13 events so far this season. But they haven't won a title this year and still seeking a first-ever Masters.

But Ulaanbaatar enter in form having reached the semis in their last three events, including at the Cebu Masters. If Steve Sir heats up Hong Kong, - he's shooting at 35% from 2 - then the Mongolians might have the title they deserve after all that travel.

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