In an adrenaline-packed showdown between North American neighbors, Canada etched an unprecedented chapter in its basketball history. The Canadian team’s electrifying 127-118 overtime victory against the USA in the Third Place Game of the FIBA World Cup 2023 is one for the books. This historic win occurred in the bustling Mall of Asia Arena in Manila, where a roaring crowd of 10,666 fans bore witness to Canada’s ascent to the podium for the first time in FIBA Basketball World Cup history.
Canada’s victory further highlighted a dip in the performance of the US team, which missed out on the podium for consecutive World Cup events – a streak not witnessed since the stretch of 1963, 1967, and 1970.
An Overtime to Remember
The game’s climax seemed to be written in stone when Shai Gilgeous-Alexander executed his signature midrange pull-up. Soon after, Dillon Brooks sank crucial free throws, giving Canada a seemingly insurmountable four-point lead. With mere seconds left in the fourth quarter, Mikal Bridges reinvigorated the US’s hopes with a brilliant play. After successfully landing a free throw, he masterfully missed the second, only to seize his own rebound and effortlessly net a corner three-pointer. This dramatic move tied the game at 111-111 with just 0.6 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, pushing the match into an exhilarating overtime.
Brooks: From Controversy to Celebration
The undeniable star of the match was Dillon Brooks, whose impeccable performance was a testament to his resilience. From facing jeers earlier in the tournament, Brooks’s game metamorphosed to one that invoked MVP chants. Garnering a game-high of 39 points, Brooks played an instrumental role in leading Canada to its maiden FIBA Men’s Basketball World Cup medal.
Surpassing Carl Ridd’s 1954 record, Brooks scored the most points by a Canadian in a FIBA World Cup game. His post-game remarks reverberated gratitude. Addressing his critics, he mentioned, “I just appreciate you. From the beginning, everyone throwing shots on [X, formerly known as Twitter], Instagram… it just helps me get better each and every day.” With immense pride, he added, “Just happy to be able to put this jersey on… and represent my country, for the Canadians out there.”
Historic Win Against a Seasoned Adversary
This victory marked Canada’s second win against the US, improving their record to 2-21 in FIBA senior men’s tournaments. Their only other win came in 2005 during a FIBA Americas event. Notably, this recent win featured teams loaded with NBA talent on both sides. While Canada boasted seven NBA players, all 12 US team members hailed from the league. However, the USA’s lineup was missing three pivotal players due to illness: Brandon Ingram, Paolo Banchero, and Jaren Jackson Jr. Despite their absence, Anthony Edwards, Austin Reaves, and Bridges showcased commendable performances for the US team.
Canada’s head coach, Jordi Fernandez, was effusive in his praise for Brooks, stating, “Really proud of Dillon, this is how it looks like when they let Dillon Brooks play. And it’s not just on the defensive end. With Lu [Dort], he’s the best perimeter defender in the World Cup.” Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who made significant contributions with 31 points, six rebounds, and 12 assists, was declared a tournament all-star. His statistics over the tournament have been nothing short of spectacular.
This game has undoubtedly set a new precedent in international basketball. Canada’s resilience, strategy, and sheer talent pushed them to achieve a historic bronze medal, indicating a bright future for Canadian basketball on the global stage. On the other hand, the USA, with its rich basketball legacy, will undoubtedly reflect, recalibrate, and return with renewed vigor in subsequent tournaments. The world can only wait with bated breath for their next encounter on the court.