By TIM REYNOLDS AP Basketball Writer
MANILA, Philippines — Mikal Bridges pulled off an overtime-forcing miracle. It wasn’t enough to keep the U.S. from heading home from the World Cup empty-handed, and after 87 years of waiting Canada has again medaled on one of basketball’s biggest stages.
Dillon Brooks scored 39 points, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander added 31 points and 12 assists and Canada won its first medal at a global men’s tournament since 1936 by topping the Americans, 127-118, in the third-place game on Sunday (late Saturday night PT).
The U.S. failed to medal for the second consecutive World Cup. It’s only the seventh time in 38 appearances at the Olympic or World Cup level that an American team did not emerge with gold, silver or bronze.
“The United States hasn’t won the World Cup since 2014,” U.S. coach Steve Kerr said. “It’s hard. These teams in FIBA are really good, well-coached, they’ve got continuity and they’ve played together for a long time. This is difficult and it’s been difficult already.”
The Americans were the favorites coming into the tournament, then lost three of their last four games. They left the floor for the final time in Manila frustrated, angry, disappointed.
“All of the above,” U.S. guard Tyrese Haliburton said.
RJ Barrett scored 23 for Canada (6-2), which improved to 2-21 all-time against the U.S. in FIBA senior men’s competitions. The lone previous win came at a FIBA Americas event in 2005, a game that wasn’t loaded with big-name NBA players. This one was, Canada having seven on its roster and the U.S. having all 12 of its players hail from the league.
But three of those U.S. players – forwards Brandon Ingram and Paolo Banchero and center Jaren Jackson Jr. – missed Sunday’s game with illness. Anthony Edwards led the Americans (5-3) with 24 points, Lakers guard Austin Reaves scored 23 and Bridges had 19 for the U.S.
“This team was amazing, special,” Canada coach Jordi Fernandez said. “It’s the beginning of something that’s going to last for a long time.”
Bridges pulled off an unbelievable play in the final seconds of regulation, going to the line with the U.S. down by four with 4.2 seconds left and needing a miracle.
He delivered one.
Bridges made the first free throw, intentionally missed the second and ran down the rebound as it bounced toward the right corner. Bridges corralled the ball, spun and let fly from just behind the 3-point line.
Swish. The score was tied with 0.6 seconds left. Kelly Olynyk nearly won it for Canada on the final play of regulation with a 30-footer that hit the back of the iron as time expired, and to overtime they went, tied at 111-111.
— FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 🏆 (@FIBAWC) September 10, 2023
“Just tried to miss it right. That’s kind of where you want the ball to be at in situations like that,” said Bridges, who spent most of the night trying to defend Gilgeous-Alexander. “Just read and react … went and shot it.”
But Canada was undeterred, never trailing in the extra session.
“We won the first 40 minutes. Well, obviously not, but we won the majority of the first 40 minutes and we didn’t think it was a fluke,” said Gilgeous-Alexander, who scored seven points to begin OT. “So, we just tried to focus on winning the next five.”
That’s exactly what they did, and now it’s over. Another World Cup, another debacle for the Americans. They finished seventh in China four years ago, fourth in Manila – losing three of their final four games – and now have less than 12 months to regroup for the Paris Olympic Games and the quest to win a fifth consecutive Olympic gold medal.
“Super tough, but can’t win them all,” Edwards said. “Came up short, twice.”
That would be twice in the medal round, against Germany and now Canada, and once more against Lithuania in the second round – where the undoing of this U.S. World Cup run started and left them with three losses in their last four games. They allowed an average of 117 points in the losses.
“We just didn’t defend well enough against Germany (in the semifinals) or against Canada, and that’s the bottom line,” Kerr said. “Every year when you try to build a team, you try to build the best two-way team you can and be able to get stops and score, and everybody’s trying to do that.”
Even at full strength, the Americans knew their roster lacked size, and there just wasn’t enough defense, once again. This tournament marked the first Olympic or World Cup appearance where a U.S. team gave up at least 100 points three different times. The Americans went 0-3 in those games in Manila, losing to Lithuania, Germany in the semis and Canada on Sunday.
“I mean, we couldn’t get no stops,” Edwards said. “Our defense was pretty bad.”
Including the 2019 World Cup and the 2021 Olympics, where Team USA won gold, the Americans have now lost seven times. The roster this summer that focused on quickness and versatility proved ineffective.
Executive director Grant Hill, general manager Sean Ford and Kerr will have to return to the drawing board, and the star player recruiting trail, for next year’s Olympics.
“We’ve really studied everything about FIBA and the history of United States basketball when we’ve won, what has been the reason and when we’ve lost what has been the reason,” Kerr said. “So we study all that stuff, and what it comes down to for us in this tournament, we put ourselves in a great position. We got to the semifinals and were right there.”
Kerr, determined to make small ball work, eventually decided to start playing five guards and wings with the “big man” being 6-foot-5 Josh Hart. When Hart fouled out, Kerr replaced him with 6-foot-1 Jalen Brunson to go even smaller. Kerr played most of the game’s last 10 minutes this way and nearly pulled out the win.
At that point, though, it would have felt like an upset.
Brooks’ final three games in Manila were strong at both ends. The Americans know Brooks’ reputation as an inconsistent outside shooter, but it proved to be a mistake to give him space. He went 7 for 8 from behind the arc and scored 21 points in a sizzling first half, chirping all the way as usual.
The crowd, which had jeered him earlier in the week because he is a rival of their beloved Lakers, flipped and was giving Brooks “M-V-P” chants at several points.
“It was so enjoyable. Obviously, the hate doesn’t stop, it keeps going,” said Brooks, a former Memphis Grizzlies forward who signed a four-year, $86 million deal this summer with the Houston Rockets. “It’s hard to battle against the world and a team.”
Canada’s only other medal in a tournament of this magnitude – World Cup or Olympics – came in 1936, when it lost, 19-8, to the U.S. in the gold-medal matchup at the Berlin Games. That final was played outside, in a rainstorm, on a clay court that probably would have been better served that day as a slip-and-slide.
This was for bronze, not silver. But it’s safe to say Canada enjoyed it even more than that better finish 87 years ago.
“We really wanted to play the U.S.,” Brooks said. “We got our wish.”
Gilgeous-Alexander, who also had six rebounds Sunday, averaged 24.5 points, 6.4 rebounds and 6.4 assists per game for the tournament while shooting 54% from the field.
“He kills everybody in the league. He’s one day probably going to be in race for MVP,” Reaves said. “You’ve got to give him his flowers.”
SCHRÖDER LEADS GERMANY TO FIRST GOLD
Have a summer, Germany. Dirk Nowitzki went into the Basketball Hall of Fame, and now his homeland stands atop the men’s international basketball world.
Tournament MVP Dennis Schröder scored 28 points, Franz Wagner added 19 and Germany capped an unbeaten run through the World Cup by holding off Serbia, 83-77, in the title game. It was Germany’s first World Cup title; its previous top showing in the event was a bronze at Indianapolis in 2002.
Germany went 8-0 in the tournament, becoming the fifth consecutive World Cup champion to go unbeaten. Schroder’s postgame news conference was briefly interrupted by his teammates, who doused him with water as they jumped and chanted in celebration.
“It’s an unbelievable group,” the former Lakers guard said. “It’s unbelievable going 8-0.”
Germany coach Gordie Herbert took the job in 2021, and his first official order of business was driving to see Schröder. They spent three or four hours together that first day, building a relationship that is now good as gold.
“It’s a little bit of a surreal moment,” Herbert said. “It’s like I told the players. It’s a tremendous group of players, but we were a team first. Guys cared about each other and they challenged each other.”
Aleksa Avramovic scored 21 and Bogdan Bogdanovic added 17 for Serbia (6-2), which lost the title game for the second time in the last three tournaments. It was routed by the U.S., 129-92, in the 2014 gold-medal game, and little was expected of the team this summer – merely because its best player, Nikola Jokic of the NBA champion Denver Nuggets, decided not to play and instead opted to rest for the coming season. In addition, two-time Euroleague Final Four MVP Vasilije Micić didn’t play after signing with the Oklahoma City Thunder earlier this summer.
But Serbia went on a surprise run, fueled by the inspiration the team took from the loss of reserve forward Borisa Simanic. He was fouled late in a first-round win against South Sudan, needed surgery that night for internal injuries and then a second surgery was required a few days later to remove one of his kidneys.
Simanic will get a medal. But it will be silver, after Germany simply proved too tough.
“We made great success,” Avramovic said. “Our heads are up. This is already past, and our next goal is to go the Olympic Games and make better success than this. Germany, they have been playing amazing. … We know that we made our country happy and put a smile on them.”
A 22-10 run in the third quarter gave Germany all the breathing room it needed after a back-and-forth opening half, and Serbia couldn’t reclaim the lead down the stretch. It got within 79-77 after Marko Guduric made a pair of free throws with 39.5 seconds left, but Schröder blew past two defenders for a layup on the ensuing German possession to restore a four-point edge.
The notion of Germany being the world’s best in basketball was far-fetched even when Nowitzki was the country’s best player.
“In Germany, people are starting to recognize what we’re doing for our country,” Schröder said. “We want our respect as well.”
That respect was earned. Germany – which failed to qualify for the 2016 Olympics – came up with a plan to ask its best players for a three-year commitment to the national team, with eyes on this World Cup and the Paris Olympics. This was the second year of that plan, and a team that didn’t even get out of the opening round at any of the last three World Cups – finishing 17th in 2010, not qualifying in 2014 and finishing 18th in 2019 – finished third at EuroBasket last summer and now has the Naismith Trophy in its possession for the next four years.
“They deserved this win,” Serbia coach Svetislav Petic said. “They played 40 minutes at a high level.”
Schröder led a fast-paced attack that makes the Germans a variation from typical European powers. They have a line of excellent big men, including NBA players Moritz Wagner and Daniel Theis. But Schröder’s speed with the ball and ability to collapse defenses tirelessly are invaluable weapons at this level.
Pushing the tempo, probing and hunting shots repeatedly led to good things for his team. With less than a minute left, Serbia’s Marko Guduric missed a 3-point attempt that would have tied the score. Schroder then took over.
The moment that will be remembered for a while came with 21 seconds left. Schröder got the ball with his team up just two points and maximum pressure. He held up his hand, indicating he had it, and within a split second was a blur going to the hoop.
When he put the ball off the glass and into the basket a moment later, it was the separation Germany needed. Around the play, he made three clutch free throws to seal off Serbia’s hopes.
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