Team Canada will play for a bronze medal at the FIBA Basketball World Cup after falling to Serbia, 95-86, in the semifinal round on Friday morning.
Despite the Canadians falling short of the final, it will be the nation’s best-ever finish at a FIBA World Cup, besting their sixth-place finishes in 1978 and 1982.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, one of the favorites to win tournament MVP throughout the World Cup, was far-and-away Canada’s standout player in the tournament. He led the team in points (23.6), rebounds (6.4) and assists per game (5.6) across seven games in southeast Asia.
Dillon Brooks (11.7 PPG on 56.9 FG%) and RJ Barrett (15.9 PPG) also posted strong tournaments for Canada.
Canada had already confirmed its place in the 2024 Olympics with its Round of 16 victory over Spain.
No Nikola Jokic for Serbia? No problem.
The 2023 NBA Finals MVP did not suit up for his country this summer, but that hasn’t mattered for the Serbians, who will play in their second World Cup final in the last three tournaments.
They last fell in the 2014 final to the United States, 129-92.
On Friday morning, it was Canada’s early foul trouble and Serbia’s continued red-hot shooting that set the narrative for the game.
All five of Canada’s starters – including Gilgeous-Alexander – had picked up two fouls by halftime. This spelled danger for a team that did not use its depth much all tournament. Just two non-starters averaged more than 10 minutes per game in the World Cup.
With star players in foul trouble, Serbia used a 17-2 run to take a 23-17 lead at the end of the first quarter, then extended their lead to 45-31 at halftime. Canada never recovered.
Atlanta Hawks guard Bogdan Bogdanovic led the way for the Serbs, scoring 23 points on 8-for-12 shooting.
Serbia shot an outstanding 36-for-58 (62.1%) from the field and 9-for-20 (45%) from three. Canada’s team numbers (48.2% FG, 37% 3P) were decent, but not enough to keep up with the firing Serbians.
Barrett led the team with 23 points, while Gilgeous-Alexander scored 15, his second-lowest total of the tournament.