Masterclass: Serbia put on a defensive clinic and advance

MANILA (Philippines) РThey were there in 2014, they are there in 2023. Serbia made it back to the Final of the FIBA Basketball World Cup, with an impressive all-round performance against Canada in front of 8630 fans in the Mall of Asia Arena.It finished 95-86, sending Serbia to another Final. It could be a rematch of the 2014 title game, because the United States are on the other side of the bracket, facing Germany in the other Semi-Final.

The recipe for playing teams with a number of NBA players was usually to slow things down and try to stay attached as long as possible. Serbia had other ideas, led by the coaching mastermind of Svetislav Pesic. It was Serbia running the floor, it was Serbia’s athleticism that was troubling Canada, and it was Serbia’s physicality which was felt all over the floor, especially with Aleksa Avramovic’s ball pressure.¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†They were up for nearly the entire game, and once Marko Guduric and Vanja Marinkovic hit back-to-back three-pointers to end the third quarter, and Avramovic picked up a backcourt steal against Shai Gilgeous-Alexander for an easy dunk to start the fourth, it was clear this was turning into an all day Serbian party in Manila. That way Pesic’s men opened up a 17-point gap early in the fourth, and there was no magical comeback by Canada the rest of the way.

Bogdan Bogdanovic can do no wrong when he’s wearing this jersey. He has scored 15+ points in six straight games now, he has made at least one three-pointer in 24 consecutive World Cup games, he’s got 16 steals in 2023, making him the Serbian player with most steals in a single World Cup competition. But all of these numbers don’t matter as much as his presence on the floor. The stands are loving it, Bogdan had all the right moves, and his back-to-back steals in the final three minutes sealed the deal. He finished with 23 points, making this his 11th World Cup game with 20+ points, trailing only Luis Scola (16) and Dirk Nowitzki (12) in the 20th century.

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Svetislav Pesic has a unique chance to get on top of the world again, 21 years after he led FR Yugoslavia to gold in Indianapolis. This game had everything he ever wanted as a coach, with unreal contributions all over the roster, not just with Bogdan Bogdanovic. Nikola Milutinov had a 16-point, 10-rebound double-double, Ognjen Dobric scored 16 points while having to deal with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander defensively, Guduric finished with 12, Avramovic had 10, and Serbia were a +15 team with Aleksa on the floor. Canada got 23 points from RJ Barrett, but Jordi Fernandez’s men were stunned with the sheer power and strength of this opponent. SGA finished with 15 points and 9 assists, way below his 30.5 points per game average from the last two games.

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