By Amado Inigo
MANILA — Germany uncorked a strong third quarter and then weathered Serbia’s strong uprising in the fourth canto en route to grabbing the coveted Naismith Trophy of the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup with a thrilling 83-77 win before a sellout crowd of more than 12,000 Sunday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Serbia fought Germany mano-a-mano in the first half before the Germans floored the pedal to the metal in the third quarter.
Germany’s third-quarter blitzkrieg proved to be the turning point as the Germans erected a 12-point cushion, 69-57, at the end of the third canto and going into the crucial fourth where Serbia once again made their presence felt.
Serbia actually threatened to within three points in the fourth following an 8-2 blast in the final two minutes but the Germans maintained their ground to claim the most coveted Naismith trophy.
Serbia turned ice cold in the penultimate quarter, producing but 10 points the whole 10 minutes of play even as Germany scorched the net with 22 points to turn a tight, see-saw game to its favor.
All that Germany needed from there was to maintain the lead and a cohesive play from both ends of the court.
Serbia raced to a 26-point production in the first, the second-most ever by any team in the opening chapter of a World Cup final after the USA’s 35 against Serbia in 2014, but Germany pulled even at 47-all at the half.
The first time that Germany and Serbia met ended in a thrilling 82-81 double overtime win by the Germans in the preliminary round of the 2010 World Cup.
The Germany-Serbia clash was the fifth all-European finale in World Cup history and the first since Spain crushed Greece in the 2006 championship game.
Both teams eliminated foes loaded with NBA talents in the eliminations punctuated by Germany’s massive upset win over favored USA and Serbia bouncing out Canada.
Canada takes bronze
Earlier in the day, Canada achieved a historic milestone by defeating the United States and clinching a well-deserved bronze medal.
The thrilling victory came in an overtime showdown, where Canada triumphed with a final score of 127-118 in overtime over the NBA-laden Team USA.
It was a sweet redemption for Canada, who had previously faced seven consecutive defeats against the American team in World Cup matchups.
This triumph also marked the very first instance where Canada finished higher than the United States in the history of the World Cup.
Meanwhile, before the USA and Canada battle for third, the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) heaped praises to the Philippines’ hosting of the Basketball World Cup.
FIBA secretary general Andreas Zagklis described the Philippines’ hosting of the World Cup as “excellent.”
Serbia ranked 6th
Serbia is ranked sixth in the world and has been a consistent contender in international basketball, winning the World Cup in 1998 and 2002 and bagging silver in 2014.
On the other hand, Germany’s best finish in the world’s greatest basketball conclave was third place (bronze) in the 2002 edition in the USA.
Laden with NBA players, Team USA bowed out from title contention after losing 113-111 to Germany in Friday’s semi-finals while Canada sustained a 95-86 debacle against Serbia to also miss a shot at the crown.
Serbia hardly missed top player Nikola Jokic, who recently led the Denver Nuggets to the 2023 NBA championship. He opted not to play in the World Cup due to physical and mental fatigue.
Without Jokic, Serbia swept aside Puerto Rico, South Sudan and China in Group B.
And despite a narrow 78-76 loss to Italy in the second round, a dominant Serbian win over the Dominican Republic punched them a ticket to the knockout rounds, which saw them cruise to victories over Lithuania and a Canadian side featuring NBA stars Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, RJ Barrett and Dillon Brooks.
Germany never suffered a single loss going into the championship.
19h edition of FIBA World Cup
The 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup represented the 19th edition of this prestigious event for men’s national basketball teams.
This edition was notable for several reasons: it was the second to feature 32 teams and marked the first instance of multiple nations hosting the tournament simultaneously.
The hosting duties were shared by the Philippines, Japan, and Indonesia, with the event spanning from August 25th to September 10th, 2023.
This World Cup was particularly significant as it marked Indonesia’s debut as a host nation, while both the Philippines and Japan were hosting for the second time, their previous stints being in 1978 and 2006, respectively.
Notably, this year’s tournament was the second of three consecutive World Cups held in Asia, following China’s hosting of the 2019 edition, and preceding Qatar’s upcoming hosting in 2027.
It also set a unique record in the tournament’s history, as the host nation (Indonesia) did not qualify to participate.
Furthermore, this World Cup achieved a remarkable milestone by becoming the most-attended in history, particularly the Dominican Republic-Philippines game.
Record number of spectators
Held at the cavernous Philippine Arena in Bocaue, the host country, and DR’s game drew an impressive crowd of 38,115 spectators, surpassing the previous record of 32,616 set during the 1994 final at the SkyDome in Toronto.
The significance of this tournament extended beyond the competition itself, as it served as a qualification event for the 2024 Summer Olympics.
The top two teams from each of the Americas and Europe, along with the top teams from Africa, Asia, and Oceania, earned berths alongside the host nation, France.
In a surprising turn of events, defending champion Spain faced early defeats against Latvia and Canada in the second round, ultimately finishing in 9th place, marking Spain’s first absence from the World Cup Quarter-finals since 1994.
Canada 127 – Brooks 39, Gilgeous-Alexander 31, Barrett 23, Olynyk 11, Dort 11, Alexander-Walker 5, Powell 4, Ejim 3, Edey 0, Scrubb 0.
USA 118 – Edwards 24, Reaves 23, Bridges 19, Portis 14, Brunson 13, Hart 10, Haliburton 6, Kessler 6, Johnson 3.
Quarters: 34-25, 58-56, 91-82, 111-111 (reg), 127-118 (OT).