It’s the final four of the 2023 FIBA World Cup. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander leads Canada into battle against Bogdan Bogdanovic and Serbia in Manila on Friday to see who progresses to Sunday’s final. Emmet Ryan breaks down the big match-ups and makes his prediction.
Who: Serbia (5-1) vs Canada (5-1)
Where: Mall of Asia Arena, Manila
When: Friday 8 September at 16.45 Manila/10.45 Belgrade/09.45 London/04.45 Toronto
How they got here
Serbia romped through their first three games, beating Puerto Rico, South Sudan, and China. This was followed by a loss to Italy before they bounced back to dominate against Dominican Republic. Serbia then trounced Lithuania in the quarter final.
Canada looked awesome in their opening three games. They beat France, Lebanon, and Latvia. They then suffered a shock defeat to Brazil. With the tournament on the line, they got the win over Spain. That was followed by an impressive performance against Slovenia on Wednesday night.
Last time out
Bogdan Bogdanovic was simply tremendous for Serbia in their rout of Lithuania. It was far from a one-man show however as Filip Petrusev, Nikola Jovic, and Nikola Militunov also impressed.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander established himself as the clear MVP favourite for the 2023 FIBA World Cup as Canada beat Slovenia. Dillon Brooks was also rather impressive in the game that showed Canada’s focus.
The big men in the middle will be at each other all night. Kelly Olynk and Nikola Militunov will likely have a physical battle that should shape a great deal of what happens in this game. Shai Gilgeous Alexander and Bogdan Bogdanovic will also have a big duel but after that it gets interesting.
The clear stars for both sides are obvious, it will be the ability of Bogdanovic and Gilgeous-Alexander to bring the rest of their team mates into the game that will decide this.
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Need to know
No matter the result, this is Canada’s best ever FIBA World Cup result…for the men. The women have two third place finishes on their resume. Of all the teams I have seen at this tournament, none have looked better than Canada did against Slovenia on Wednesday night.
Serbia are playing with an 11 man roster. Borisa Simanic lost a kidney due to an injury suffered earlier in the tournament. That is quite the motivation for his team mates, who rarely need anything extra to get fired up.
What the bookies think
This one is marked as much tighter than the other 2023 FIBA World Cup semi-final by the sportsbooks. Canada are 2/5 favourites while Serbia are available at 7/4. The point spread betting favours Canada as -4.5 favourites and that seems very reasonable to me.
What we think
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is having an incredible tournament but not by playing hero ball. He has matured into a tremendous leader for this Canada team and one that is going to work everyone around him into the game. Svetislav Pesic, the Serbia coach, is well aware of this. I expect Pesic to not target SGA as the key man to shut down but rather his outlets. It may seem dangerous to challenge the best player at the tournament to play hero ball but it’s also probably the wisest option.
I’d love to pick this Serbia team because they play with such ferocity. That’s no slight on a great Canada team. It’s going to be a good one but I’m picking Canada to win and cover the spread.