25 August, 2023
10 September
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Who will play the Final? Which player will shine? Experts answer that and more

MANILA (Philippines) - After decisive wins for Serbia and the USA in the first two Quarter-Finals, Germany and Canada found the going much harder yet prevailed.

How will it go down in the Semi-Finals, with Serbia squaring off against Canada and the USA trading blows with Germany?



Our experts are now going to show their cards.

Jeff Taylor, FIBA writer, columnist and play-by-play commentator who's called World Cup games since 1998, is joined by three 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. FIBA commentator in Manila's Mall of Asia.

Shona Thorburn is a former professionnal player. She was a two-time Canada Olympic point guard who is now a coach at French top-flight side Basket Landes.

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.

Serbia v Canada, Friday, 16:40 local time


Jeff: Canada, in their first Semi-Final at the FIFA basketball World Cup, face a country that has a lot of experience in that game. What do the Canadians have to do to win?

Mark: I think the solution is for Canada to play the way they want to and get points off their defense. Be aggressive on offense and try to to get SGA (Shai Gilgeous-Alexander) in situations that he can exploit. Specifically, they really do play better if the ball touches the paint. Drive lanes are more open, and they shoot a far better percentage from three-point range.

RJ Barrett slammed it home on one of his drives against Slovenia

At the defensive end, their quickness and size on the perimeter is such a strong part of how they construct their defense. They have forced every team they have played out of what they want to run. Serbia have great shooters but Canada will chase them off the three-point line.
If Canada can dictate how the game is played, they can win as they could dominate Serbia's perimeter game.

Shona: Canada learned a lot of valuable lessons from their loss to Brazil - the biggest being they need to stick to their game plan and style of play, and especially on the offensive end. When they can't get out and run their offense, it becomes four guys standing around watching one guy try to score... They need to run, be aggressive early, attack the paint, share the ball and then find open shooters. This all starts with getting defensive stops though.

Mike: Canada have been very impressive while advancing to the Semi-Finals for the first time in history. I see their team growing through similar adjustments as with the USA. Both feature athletic, deep rosters loaded with NBA talent that are adjusting to the FIBA playing style. Just as the USA faced a traditional European power in the Second Round when they lost to Lithuania, Canada now takes on an outstanding Serbia that plays precise, high percentage basketball. A key to this game for Canada will be teamwork against the Serbian defensive pressure. Serbia outplayed an excellent Lithuania in the Quarter-Finals with an energized defensive effort.

Canadian players have the individual talent to handle the pressure, but they must play with system discipline and focus on teamwork and ball-movement for good shots against the tough Serbian D. On the other end of the floor, Canada must find a way to slow down the Serbian offense which plays at excellent pace.

Led by sharpshooting Bogdan Bodganovic, Serbia runs their offense at high-speed tempo making them hard to guard which has resulted in high percentage shots and an outstanding half-court offense. Also underrated is the Serbian size and physicality in their front court led by big man Nikola Milutinov.  

Jeff: What does Serbia have to do to get control of the game away from SGA?

: Control the tempo! Serbia does a good job of limiting their turnovers and also don't take a lot of bad shots. This will help them get back on defense and find SGA. Individually one person can't defend Shai, who has a bag of tricks and has been playing very well on offense. Teammates are going to need to help off and recover quick to shooters. I think their best bet might be forcing Shai to become a passer and making other people have to score for Canada. The issue with this is Canada have more offensively than just Shai... but maybe you take the risk trying to make others score. What you can't allow are easy fast break and transition points for Canada.

Serbia's defensive juggernaut Aleksa Avramovic

Mark: I'm not sure anyone takes the game away from him. It's a case of just reducing his impact. They need to force him to play at both ends as well. Serbia have an all time coaching great. Coach Pesic will develop an approach that will limit Shai. They have struggled when they get slowed down and have limited paint touches.

Mike: Shai has been at MVP level this World Cup. His 31 points and 10 rebounds were key to Canada's Quarter-Final win over Slovenia. SGA has been consistent and at times dominant for Canada. Facing a dynamic, talented guard is nothing new for legendary Serbian head coach Svetislav Pesic and his Serbian team. Look for Serbian guard to pressure Shai as much as they can and give him different looks throughout the game.

Jeff:  Canada are athletic, though maybe not as much as the USA? Maybe that's debatable. Anyway, how does Serbia deal with the athleticism of Canada?

Serbia boast a deceptively athletic lineup, which includes Nikola Jovic

Mike: Serbia will focus on defensive fundamentals to overcome the athleticism of the Canadian lineup. Overall, Serbia will aim to keep Canada in the half-court as much as possible by limiting their fast break opportunities. Serbia can do this relying on their high-percentage offense to finish plays and emphasizing their transition defense including floor balance/basket coverage, stopping the ball early with a half-court pick up point and stopping the break using smart fouls. In the half-court, SGA has been efficient in isolations and is the key to the Canadian offense. Look for Serbia to make Shai work for every inch on the floor and force him into tough shots. The match-up could go Canada's way if SGA can play at his own speed against the Serbian pressure, create good shots for his team and get to the foul line. Traditionally strong Serbian defense against Canada's rising star makes a for a perfect World Cup Semifinals story line.


: Offensively Serbia have multiple options in the system they run, but they will need to execute and make good decisions. They cannot play one on one basketball. Canada at times against Spain, Latvia and in the loss to Brazil gave up easier looks in late clock situations or when the ball moved quickly. Serbia must move the ball and stretch the defense. Overall they have to slow the game, take care of the ball and take good shots. Make this a technical half court game. That's easy to say but with Shai, Brooks, RJ Barrett and Co, it's tough.

Jeff: Is there anything particular that Jordi Fernandez has done as coach in this World Cup and especially in the big games that stands out?

Canada coach Jordi Fernandez

Shona: Coach Fernandez had big shoes to fill after Nurse stepped down but Canada Basketball can be applauded for going out and finding a coach with FIBA and NBA experience. It looks like he has a strong connection with his players. He has gotten them to buy into their roles, which isn't always easy when some guys have to play very different roles to what they are used to. They all understand the goal is to win. He is cool, calm and collected in the heat of the moment and his players feel that.

Mike: Jordi Fernandez has done an excellent job of guiding his players through the adjustment to the high-level FIBA game. Like the USA, the Canadian roster is filled with players used to the NBA style and must learn the nuances of the FIBA game. Canada have played extremely well to reach the Semi-Finals for the first time in history. However, at times, discipline and ball-movement have been inconsistent. Jordi has done an excellent job of managing these times and helped his team refocus efficiently. While Jordi has worked for the last decade in the NBA with Denver and Sacramento, his roots are in Spain and his experience with the Spanish national team are serving him well. It's great to see Jordi showing what he can do.

Mark: The biggest thing for me is the way he appears to have Canada functioning as a team. He talks about accountability to everyone which has been evident in all their games. The players have accepted their roles. That is tough to do but he has done that. In addition, his experience in FIBA tournaments has added to their preparation and how they executed game plans. But his management is at least as important as his coaching.

USA v Germany, Friday, 20:40 local time

Jeff: Let's move on to the second Semi-Final. Germany won despite a poor day from Schroder. Is this a sign of strength for them, that they can win when their talisman is having a bad day? Also, what gives Germany hope of beating a very strong and athletic and gifted USA team? Do you think there’s a key matchup?

Davis Bertans swatted Dennis Schroder in the Quarter-Finals

Mark: Short answer is yes, it's great they can win with Dennis Schroder struggling. It demonstrates their depth, their versatility and the belief they have. The coach stayed with him, his teammates stayed positive with him and he never doubted himself. He will comeback and probably with a great game. While it is great to win without Schroder, I cannot see Germany making final without Dennis playing great.

Back to back semis at major tournaments, this Germany is for real and it's not just about one player.The key match-up is Schroder and whoever guards him. If Dennis gets going, he could lead Germany to the Final. In addition, its not individual match-ups its also how USA deals the size of Germany.

Mike: I see that as a sign of strength and quality as other players stepped up, including Franz and Mo Wagner.


While we know Schroder can single-handedly help Germany win, his four for 26 shooting was a struggle. As Latvia switched pick-and-roll screens with Schroder, he was too casual handling the basketball and inefficient in his attack. Instead of on-time play making with calculated, decisive action, Schroder slowed the ball-movement and settled for threes (zero for 8 for the game). Germany coach Gordie Herbert stayed with Schroder as a show of support. Fortunately for Germany, Franz Wagner sparked a third quarter run helping to build an 11 point lead and Latvia didn't hit a game-winning three-pointer in the last seconds. Schroder made some winning plays in the second half which was encouraging for Germany.

Shona: Before the tournament started, I thought we would see Germany on the podium at the end of the World Cup. That being said after the very mediocre play by Schroder in the Quarter-Finals, I am even more convinced that this team is special. His teammates stepped up and all game long they still trusted him, encouraged him, and looked to him as their go to guy. I really can't imagine Schroder having two off games in a row. Good news is it looks like Franz Wagner's injury is no longer bothering him and other players should be playing with more confidence as this tournament has progressed. 

Mike: Germany had their competitive preparation matchup in Abu Dabi, a 99-91 USA win on August 20th. Germany was in top form, leading by 16 in the third quarter before Anthony Edwards powered USA's exciting comeback. Combine this experience with watching Lithuania upset the USA in the second round and Germany will be hungry to spring the next big upset of this World Cup. After the disappointing Quarterfinals performance, Schroder will once again be a key against the USA matching up with point guards Jalen Brunson and Tyrese Haliburton. Schroeder and teammates must be at their best.

Jeff: USA rebounded from their loss to Lithuania in grand style against Italy, but Germany are a different proposition. Do you like where the United States are right now and what will they have to do to beat Germany?

: They are better for the loss to Lithuania. They've grown as a team. To beat Germany they have to control Schroder. Latvia switched and helped on him but in doing that gave up too many offensive rebounds and could not deal with the advantage created for Germany's bigs. To win it starts with the on-ball defense. They have do a good job containing the ball. They must control the glass against another big European team. The front line of German is a concern for the US.

Offensively they need to stretch Germany and get them into rotations. The USA loss to Lithuania also had the effect of removing any complacency on the part of players. Coach Kerr would have stressed how good the competition is but they now know. They will not get caught cold again.

Mike: I love where the United States team is. After the loss to Lithuania, USA responded with a dominant performance in a 100-63 win over Italy that saw improved defensive pressure and more physicality resulting in more fast break opportunities and offense from their defense. Expect Germany to follow the Lithuania game plan and try to control tempo keeping the USA in the half-court.

Josh Hart is a ferocious rebounder for the USA

Focusing on multiple defensive efforts and controlling the defensive boards will be key for the USA as finishing defensive possessions can help trigger fast break opportunities and increase pace of play. After the preparation game in Abu Dhabi there will be no surprises between the USA and Germany. Throughout the tournament, the USA has learned many good lessons from the FIBA game and will be ready for the next level challenge against Germany.

Shona: The USA, as well as Canada and Serbia, benefited from losses earlier in the tournament and bounced back with big statement wins. The USA need to use their speed and bench and just try get out and run. I think if Germany let the USA play how they want it can be a very low game for Germany. But I can't imagine that happening, Germany is very well coached and proved to the world that they can win even when Schroder has an off night. They USA don't have a go too superstar like they have had at previous World Cups but that hasn't slowed them down as they lead the tournament in points per game.

: Gordie Herbert said Germany had to have a lot of improvement on both offense and defense if they were going to be competitive against the USA. Is it really that drastic or did they just have a bad game? Also, what do you think of the job that Steve Kerr has done with USA?

Mike: Gordie Herbert is an experienced coach and knows his team must play better on both ends of the floor to beat the USA. We have seen the World Cup is all about match-ups. While Germany could be considered favorites against Latvia, they will now be underdogs against the USA. I see their team being focused, hungry and ready to pull off the next World Cup upset. It's clear they will need more energy and production from Schroder, but to beat the USA it will take a mighty team effort. We have seen it before in the Second Round from Lithuania. Germany can play at a fast pace with the USA and they can score with the USA. The question is, for how long? In Abu Dhabi, Germany positioned themselves to win only to see America storm back. Will the USA hold a mental advantage over this German team?

USA coach Steve Kerr

Kerr has put his players in positions to be successful and helped the roster grow through experiences in the FIBA game at this World Cup. In particular, I love how the roster has been constructed and how Kerr has been using the second-unit featuring Paolo Banchero for defense switching screens 1-5. On offense, I really like how unselfish the USA has played and how players have worked together for good shots. The team has developed well as the World Cup has gone on and I believe they are poised to be at their best when it matters most against Germany in the Semi-Finals. Credit to Kerr and the USA coaching staff for patient, steady guidance along the way.

Mark: Coach Herbert's comments are aimed at his players after a difficult game that they found a way to win. Also I think it's aimed at those outside the team who are talking up Germany as a potential World Cup winner. It's always about the next game and improving in tournament play. His team does need to improve and he is focusing the players on the performance required and playing the opponent they face not the huge game they are in. He is using the EuroBasket experience they gained last year where expectations put pressure on his team.

Kerr had the experience of being with USA at last World Cup and at the Olympics under Coach Gregg Popovich. That, on top of being a winner for his whole career as both a player and a coach puts him in a great place to lead a USA team that has huge expectations. He has focused on winning this World Cup. He has used the loss to Lithuania to get his team to better understand FIBA basketball. The win over Italy shows how far he has taken this team. It may not have been the best Italian performance but that was down to how well USA played. Tournament play is about improving as the event progresses, focusing on your next opponent, He has really focused on that and his team has responded.

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