25 August, 2023
10 September
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Who will win on Sunday? Experts answer that and more

MANILA (Philippines) - Serbia took apart a high-quality opponent for the second straight game to book a return trip to the FIBA Basketball World Cup Final for the first time since 2014.

Germany? All they did was prove to be an OBST-acle for the tournament favorites, USA, and knock out the five-time winners of the competition.

Now we are assured of a first-time winner of the biggest and most competitive international basketball event.

Germany or Serbia? Obst or Bogdanovic? Herbert or Pesic?

There is even more spice with a star-studded All-American Third-Place Game showdown between the USA and Canada, teams that will be desperate to leave Manila with a win. 

Let's hear from our experts, all commentators at the World Cup.

Jeff Taylor, FIBA writer, columnist and play-by-play commentator who's called World Cup games since 1998 and is on the mic at the Mall of Asia, is joined by four well-known basketball coaches, and personalities, in a roundtable chat about the event.

Mike Taylor led Poland from obscurity to the Quarter-Finals of the last World Cup and was just named the Canadian Elite Basketball League Coach of the Year for his work with the Winnipeg Sea Bears. He's working as a FIBA commentator with Jeff at the Mall of Asia.

Shona Thorburn is a two-time Olympic point guard for Canada who is now a coach at French top-flight side Basket Landes and called First and Second Rounds games in Jakarta.

Mark Clark is a FIBA commentator and veteran coach. He has been on the mic calling the games in Jakarta for the First and Second Rounds of the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023.

Will Voigt is a veteran coach who led Nigeria to the title at FIBA AfroBasket 2015 and into the Olympic Games. He also held the reins of Angola and will coach NBA G League side Austin Spurs this season. Will was a commentator at Manila's Araneta Coliseum. 

Germany v Serbia, Sunday, 20:40 local time

Jeff: Germany scored A LOT of points against USA in the Semi-Finals. Will Serbia force them to play a different game and if so, what problems will they cause for Germany?

Will: Serbia will pressure them like they did to USA, but they can match their size and physicality. Germany won't be able to dominate the inside like they did against USA. Serbia will switch 1-5 at times, but they are more adept at fronting the post and scramming out the smaller defenders. They will also mix up their pick and roll coverages more than USA did. Andreas Obst will have to fight through more physical denials coming off screens than what he saw versus USA.

Mark: Serbia will try and decide where they want Germany to play. As Schroder has the ball for a lot of the time, Serbia will ask Dennis to beat them or will set out to force Dennis to take hard shots or give it up and then make it hard for him to get it back. They will construct something as they need to disrupt the German rhythm.

If they do this, other German players will be forced to create their own shots and I'm not sure they have enough players that can do that at this level. Obviously, the Wagners will become crucial to the outcome as will Germany's rebounding.


Shona: Serbia showed against Canada that they can stop high-scoring teams and buckle down and defend some of the best players in the world. They packed the paint and dared Canada to shoot tough contested shots from the outside. This worked! I imagine they will have a similar game plan defensively against Germany but if Obst and Franz Wagner have a hot shooting game, they will have to adjust their game plan quickly, which I'm sure Svetislav Pesic will have a plan B up his sleeve.

Mike: We can say Germany beat USA by outscoring them. That game featured a fast pace of play and was more about offense than defense. In many ways, Germany beat USA playing their game. The World Cup Final will feel different for Germany because of the physicality and defensive pressure. Serbia will pressure Germany and defend every inch of the floor. Serbia will also work to control the tempo of the game and dictate the pace to Germany. The game will not come as easy to Germany and Dennis Schroeder and company must be prepared to work harder together for good shots. Serbia playing through the post also presents a different challenge. To this point, at 7-0 in the World Cup, Head Coach Gordie Herbert has helped his team overcome all obstacles. To make it 8-0 and win it all, Germany must beat Serbia at their game.

Jeff: What problems will Serbia present for Germany that they have yet to face in this World Cup?


Shona: Defense leads to offense for Serbia, and Germany are going to have to take care of the ball and limit bad shot selection or else Serbia are going to get out and run and score easily in the fast break and transition. They are one of the best teams scoring in the fast break. You need to try to limit easy baskets for Serbia.

Mark: They have faced similar problems against European teams, the switching defense and the ball movement. It's just that Serbia do it better. Germany have answers when their bigs have been exceptional, especially when Schroder has struggled, but Serbia will be better so the challenge greater. I'm not sure if Germany can win this without Schroder playing well. Another night like his night against Latvia and Serbia will win.

Mike: Serbia present problems for Germany on both ends of the floor. Defensively, the Serbian ball pressure and physicality have been impressive. Avramavic gets into opposing ball-handlers and works 94 feet. Serbia's defensive discipline and multiple efforts have made opponents work hard to create good shots. Finally, the Serbian physicality forces opponents to work for position and execute through resistance. Germany will be challenged by a fundamentally sound Serbian D.


Will: At this stage in the tournament, Germany has faced just about everything, but I think Milutinov is a more skilled post-option than what they have seen so far. We also saw Latvia give them trouble when they were able to move the ball in the halfcourt. No team has better ball and player movement than Serbia right now. 

Mike: Germany's biggest challenge may be finding ways to slow down Serbia's efficient, precise, high-percentage offense. Led by star shooting guard Bogdan Bogdanovic, Serbia's offense works like a well-oiled machine creating great shots at the rim which they finish at a high percentage. Their pace of execution in the halfcourt is impressive making them hard to guard. A solid inside-out balance between post and perimeter play also describes the Serbian attack. Milutinov has been a key piece to this machine inside. Most impressive might be the decision-making demonstrated by individual Serbian players. Serbia is a high-IQ team that play calculating each possession to get what they want. In the World Cup Final, stopping Serbia presents a championship-level challenge for Germany.


Jeff: From a traditional standpoint, Serbia have made it to the 2010 Semi-Final in Turkey, almost reached the Final but lost at the end to Turkey. They reached the 2014 Final but got blown out by USA. Serbia fell in the Quarter-Finals in 2019. Is this the tournament they finally make their breakthrough and win?

Will: I was fortunate to have called all of Serbia's games leading up to the knockout stage, and with the exception of a six-minute stretch versus Italy, they have dominated their opponents. I think not having some of their more notable players has alleviated some of the pressure they normally feel. They are playing a more confident team-oriented game than I have seen in the past.

Mark: Sometimes the pressure and expectation on Serbian teams is huge and becomes an additional hurdle to overcome. However this team, without some of their highly regarded players, has not had that. The loss to Italy helped in managing that pressure. They do have that mental belief and toughness based on their history of success. It will be ironic if this team with fewer stars wins. They have a coach that creates a winning culture, so why not?

Shona: I love this Serbian team. They really play team basketball which is beautiful to watch. No one is standing around watching on offense, they are constantly moving, they love to get out and run, and defensively I believe they can make it difficult for anyone. The chances of finally winning have never been better for Serbia, I think.


Mike: All indications point to Serbia breaking through. Pesic has his team poised for Serbia's championship moment. Not only is the team playing outstanding basketball on both ends of the floor, the team is together and motivated playing for fallen teammate Borisa Simanic, who left the World Cup after suffering an injury that eventually forced him to have a kidney removed. Some might call them "a team of destiny." I see Serbia playing so fundamentally well that the team is making its own destiny.

Jeff: Will Germany have the same fate as Lithuania and struggle to be emotionally ready and charged up for Serbia after pulling out all stops to beat the USA?

Shona: 100% they will be ready to go. This is the final of the World Cup. For good reason, they should be going into this game with confidence after their win over the USA but they won't be overconfident as I'm sure their leaders and coach will have them ready to play.

Mike: We have seen Germany and Lithuania give everything they have to upset the USA. Germany and Lithuania dug deep physically and emotionally in both games to earn historic World Cup wins. The tough thing for teams in that situation is to turn around quickly and be ready for the next game. In both cases, it is not just any opponent - a tip-off with Serbia awaits. Most times we associate bouncing back with responding after a tough loss, but in this case, bouncing back means recharging batteries after a big win. One point we must make is the contrasting style between the USA and Serbia. As Lithuania and now Germany have beaten USA, the game is skillfully, athletic and played uptempo. Serbia's defensive pressure and physicality are a challenging adjustment In the next game. Winning the World Cup will take a lot physically and emotionally. We know everyone will be all in. The hard part for Germany will be bouncing back.

Will: It's always tough to regroup after an emotional win like that, but I think Germany will be ready to play. They understand what's at stake and realize that Serbia are just as formidable an opponent as USA were.

Mark: I do not think so as this is the final. They keep winning close games, they keep scoring. I believe they celebrated winning a WC Semi-FInal and not just beating the USA. Perhaps Lithuania celebrated beating the USA.

Jeff: What must Germany do to win the game?


Shona: I'm going to give the same answer for both teams. First you need to be able to control your nerves. This is the biggest game of everyone's careers. This isn't an easy task. They have their entire countries following them and cheering them on. They know history is knocking at the door. I think at the end of the game, the team that can dig down and get some big defensive stops will come out as World Cup Champs.

Mark: Score and keep scoring. They've struggled to stop teams from getting the shots they want so they have had to outscore them.

Mike: Germany must be prepared to play strong through physicality and execute together against defensive pressure. Germany must find a way to slow down the precise high percentage Serbian offensive machine. The game will feel different for Germany. It will not come easy. Germany must be ready to work for it.

Will: First, they must take care of the ball against Serbia's physical pressure defense. They will need to have players back in transition to keep Serbia in the halfcourt as much as possible. Once in the halfcourt, they have to make things tough on Bogdanovic. If he gets going from 3, watch out! Serbia has struggled at times against switching defenses, and I think this is something Germany will have to use more than they did in their previous games. On offense, Schroder needs to attack the paint and create for his teammates. This is probably their greatest match-up advantage, and it's important that he doesn't settle for perimeter jumpers as we have sometimes seen him do in this tournament.

Jeff: What must Serbia do to win the game?

Will: On defense, Serbia needs to keep Germany off the offensive boards and protect the paint, especially against Schroder's penetration. Offensively, they need to continue to attack in transition. They are at their best when they are moving the ball and playing team basketball. At times they have become stagnant trying to create shots for Bogdanovic off of pin downs in the halfcourt. He needs to be patient and let the game come to him.

Mark: Break that German rhythm on offense and do it for the whole game. If Germany's offense gets going, they will outscore Serbia.

Mike: Serbia must do what they do and play to their identity. High percentage efficient offense along with physical, disciplined defense. Serbia will aim to control the tempo of the game and execute their offense at a fast pace making them hard to guard.

Jeff: What do you like about these coaches, Gordie Herbert and Svetislav Pesic?

Mike: There is so much to like about both. Svetislav Pesic has accomplished so much in his long career and what I find impressive is that he has won with different teams and different players in different generations. He connects this current Serbian teams to the Yugoslavia basketball tradition of the past. On the other side, Gordie Herbert is one of the best coaches we have seen in the Bundesliga. Gordie has his own style which is very efficient and organized. He has always done an excellent job structuring his team's roles and creating a great team atmosphere. We can see this with how he has brought this German national team together. Players love and respect Gordie. It's great to see both coaches winning in their way.

Will: Both coaches have identified styles of play that have put their teams in the best position to win. For Coach Herbert, it has been going with big lineups and using that physicality to wear down their opponents. Also, entrusting Schroder with the ball and living with his decisions within their Horns options. For Coach Pesic, offensively it has been playing uptempo team basketball with lots of ball and player movement. Defensively it has been physical ball pressure trying to force turnovers.

Mark: Pesic is one the greats. He's a coach that coaches. He finds the smallest advantage and exploits it. This team really needs his coaching to make those defensive adjustments and exploit the weaknesses. He understands the game as well as anyone that has coached this game. Herbert clearly has a great relationship with this team. He understands his players and what works for them. He has taken the work done by both recent national team coaches and the development pathway in Germany and added his input to get the team where it is now. His management appears to be exceptional, building how this group understands its roles and building on the experience from its run at EuroBasket 2022. Coach Herbert is hugely experienced in Germany, has had great success there and understands German basketball. He is the right man in the right place at the right time.

Jeff: Which players will stand out for you in this game?

Shona: Franz Wagner and Bogdan Bogdanovic are going to put on a show!!

Will: I think Schroder and Bogdanovic are the keys to this game for each team. Both players are capable of big games, but both have had their struggles at times. Whichever player can have the more efficient offensive game will lead his team to victory.

Mike: We know teams win, but every team needs great individual performances. For Germany, look for Dennis Schroder's point guard play and Franz Wagner's offensive production to be key. Several other role players could step up like Andreas Obst or Daniel Theis did in the Semi-Finals. On the other side, Serbia starts with Bogdan Bogdanovic. Other important pieces like big man Nikola Milutinov, rising talent Nikola Jovic and versatile wing Marko Guduric play big parts for Serbia. The beauty of a championship game is to see who steps up and rises to the moment. Plenty of candidates from both sides.


Mark: While the depth of the German team is a huge factor, they do not win games without Schroder and Franz Wagner. Schroder is a difference-maker. He loves playing with Germany and is a great teammate. Wagner is simply a German great now. His scoring talent, his work off the ball, and his work on the glass is all done at the elite level.

Serbia have two great players that carry the load scoring-wise. Bogdanovic and Milutinov again are the difference makers. They have the ability to make great decisions and be as efficient as any player in the World Cup. But with Serbia, it really is their defense that may be their biggest star. For me will lift the World Cup.

USA v Canada, Sunday, 16:30 local time

Jeff: What are you most looking forward to in this game, Shona?

Shona: I want to see which players are going to bounce back after disappointing losses. Do they have enough mental strength to turn around and finish on a high note? Can Canada make history?

Jeff: We could have had an All-Americas Final but instead have an All-Americas Third-Place Game. What are you most looking forward to in this game?

Will: First team to 100 wins! This will likely be a very fast-paced game with a lot of offense. I'm looking forward to seeing which team can shake off the disappointment of their semi-final loss first. If one of these teams comes out flat, they might dig themselves too deep a hole to climb out of.

Mark: Seeing great players go against each other where the local rivalry adds some spice to the game. Both teams have struggled at times adjusting to FIBA play but there are no adjustments required. This will be an NBA-style game that will be exciting to watch.

Jeff: Mike, how are these programs looking at this game?

Mike: Potentially the biggest part of this third-place game is readiness and being present. Both USA and Canada had high hopes for this World Cup especially competing for a place in the Final, but the similarities end there. For the USA, the third-place game can almost feel like a failure because expectations are always so high for USA Basketball. It's easy to take shots at the USA after their loss to Germany and it's easy to say they have come up short, but I do not see it that way. Winning championships is not automatic and championship teams take time to grow and develop. I like what Grant Hill, Steve Kerr and USA Basketball have done with their revamped roster. I like the pieces. Experiences from this World Cup tournament will help these players grow and they can learn what it takes to win from the losses. It's a process and USA Basketball can be better from these struggles. The important part for this USA team is to see it, realize it, and come ready to win the bronze.

Jeff: What do USA have to do better to have success, bearing in mind they fell to both Lithuania and Germany in two of their last three games?

Shona: I think going up against Canada will help because it will be more an NBA style of game. That being said defensively the USA need to be much better.

Mark: Not sure if they will face the same questions but they must defend against ball movement better. The third and fourth 'extra pass' not only created open shots against them but left them exposed on the glass.


Will: USA will match up better with Canada than they did against Lithuania and Germany. Their struggles have been with big physical teams that have posted them up, especially versus their switching. Overall, USA need to do a better job adapting to the amount of contact in the international game. If they are going to continue to switch 1-5, their guards will need to do a better job avoiding getting sealed deep in the paint.

Mike: My main focus for USA is on defensive details. Specifically, physically blocking out and rebounding to control their defensive boards. Throughout the entire World Cup the USA have not demonstrated the fundamental habit of putting a body on their man choosing to simply go rebound instead. The irony is, if USA were to commit to blocking out and rebounding, then they could create transition opportunities and start fast breaks, which is a strength of their team. One aspect of FIBA play is how teams control tempo and controlling the defensive boards could help USA keep their offense humming in the open floor.

Jeff: What advantages do Canada have going into this game?

Mike: Canada can match USA's athleticism and feature the best statistical defensive lineup at the World Cup. With elite agitator Dillon Brooks leading the way, Canada defenders will not back down. But the most important advantage for Canada is Shai Gilgeous-Alexander at the point. Shai is an elite scoring point guard who does a fantastic job getting buckets and getting to the foul line.

Will: US play a free-flowing offense and relies more on their players to break their man down one on one instead of using sets. In particular, Canada has the perimeter defenders, Dort and Brooks, to neutralize Anthony Edwards and stay in front of all these dynamic American players.

Mark: Shai is a huge advantage on any team. Canada also has shown its ability to get stops in games at crucial times. Brooks and Lu Dort are exceptional defenders. They need to score off their defense and can.

Shona: I really expect Canada to step up, they have a lot to play for and coach Fernandez was not happy with his players attitude and effort during the serbia game. I expect them to be on a mission. 

Jeff: Would you like to see Canada do anything different, especially in terms of playing someone like Zach Edey?

Will: Edey is an interesting X factor in this game. The US have struggled versus size and Canada will need to do more than rely on SGA to create everything for them. I would love to see them explore some post-up options with Edey to see how USA handles them.

Mark: In this game, I'm not sure that Edey in particular will be a factor. Matchupขwise, he could have issues. But he will be a huge factor for Canada going forward. I'd like to see the ball move more for Canada. It helps them, and USA have at times not dealt with ball movement.

Mike: Every game presents unique situations and Canada has responded well, beating France and Spain on their World Cup run. Tremendous credit goes to Jordi Fernandez for guiding his team to this historic World Cup run. It would be fun to see Zach Edey match up with true five Jaren Jackson Jr or Walker Kessler Jr, but let's let the game dictate that.

Jeff: Who is going to win?

Mark: I think a high scoring USA will win.

Shona: I’m going to have to go with Canada… “eh”

Will: I think USA will win the game. Canada lack the interior presence and shooting to give the US problems like Lithuania and Germany did. They will not be able to beat USA at their own style of play.

Mike : In an exciting, uptempo third-place game with big buckets from both teams, USA edge Canada to claim the bronze.

*The Experts opinions are entirely subjective and are in no way an official FIBA statement. All comments are purely those of the authors.