Serbia have beaten Canada 95-86 to reach the men’s basketball World Cup final, where they will face Germany.
Bogdan Bogdanovic was Serbia’s top scorer, with 23 points, in Friday’s semifinal in the Philippines’ capital, Manila, followed by Ognjen Dobric and Nikola Milutinov, who each scored 16.
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Svetislav Pesic’s side were leading 52-39 at the break and never let go of the lead, imposing their will in the paint and controlling the boards.
For Canada, RJ Barrett scored 23 but Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, the team’s leading scorer, passer and rebounder, was held scoreless in the first 15 minutes amid tight coverage and foul trouble.
He finished the game with 15 points, two rebounds and nine assists, far below his tournament average of 25 points per game.
Serbia, the 1998 and 2002 winners, compete without their best player, Nikola Jokic, who decided not to play at the World Cup after leading the Denver Nuggets to the NBA championship in June, giving himself time to rest before the looming title defence.
Serbia also had to regroup during the tournament following the shock of losing reserve forward Borisa Simanic after he wound up needing a kidney removed after getting elbowed in a game against South Sudan.
Canada started the tournament with an emphatic 95-65 win over reigning Olympic silver medallist France, and had the second-lowest odds – behind the United States – of winning gold for the first time in their history. But it got into a slew of foul trouble early on in the semifinal, which kept the defence from getting on track, which in turn kept the offence from getting easy baskets.
The Canadians will now face the US for the bronze on Sunday, when they will try for their most significant international medal since winning silver at the 1936 Berlin Olympics.
Serbia lost to the US 129-92 in the final of the tournament’s 2014 edition in Madrid, Spain. The Balkan nation lost in the quarterfinals of the 2019 tournament in China.
In a major upset, Germany beat the US 113-111 in the second semifinal to secure the other slot in Sunday’s final.