Canada Secures Bronze with a Miraculous Play by Bridges

Dillon Brooks
Canada Secures Bronze with a Miraculous Play by Bridges

In a thrilling showdown witnessed by 10,666 enthusiastic fans at the Mall of Asia Arena in Manila, the United States and Canada delivered an unforgettable performance. The battle for third place in the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 went into overtime for the first time since 1990, ultimately concluding with Canada emerging victorious with a score of 127-118.

Canada celebrated their most significant achievement in international basketball, clinching a medal for the first time in FIBA Basketball World Cup history. In contrast, the United States failed to secure a podium finish in consecutive World Cup events for the first time since 1963, 1967, and 1970.

The turning point came when it seemed the game was sealed as Shai Gilgeous-Alexander executed his trademark midrange pull-up shot, followed by Dillon Brooks sinking two crucial free throws, giving Canada a four-point lead with only seconds remaining in the fourth quarter.

However, Mikal Bridges had a spectacular play up his sleeve. In an extraordinary move from the free-throw line, Bridges intentionally missed the second free throw, grabbed his rebound, and sunk a three-pointer from the corner, tying the game at 111-111 with a mere 0.6 seconds left in the fourth quarter.

Bridges explained his incredible move after the game, stating, “Coach told me to miss the second one. I tried to miss it to the right, that’s where you want the ball in situations like that, and I just read and reacted. I knew it was low time, so I just went and shot it.”

Kelly Olynyk attempted the final shot for Canada, launching a long three-pointer that appeared on target but bounced out, leading to the game heading into overtime.

In overtime, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander once again took center stage, with support from Dillon Brooks. Gilgeous-Alexander’s back-to-back baskets, followed by consecutive scores from Brooks, propelled Canada to a 121-115 lead in the final two minutes of overtime.

This lead proved insurmountable, even for the remarkable Mikal Bridges.

Dillon Brooks was named the TCL Player of the Game, a player who usually hears boos when he takes the court but turned even die-hard LA Lakers fans in the Philippines into his supporters. He delivered an exceptional first-half performance, finishing with 39 points, including 7-of-8 shooting from beyond the arc. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander contributed significantly with 31 points, 12 assists, and 6 rebounds.

Coach Jordi Fernandez praised Dillon Brooks, saying, “I’m proud of Dillon. This is how it looks when they let Dillon play. It’s not just on the defensive end that he’s the best perimeter defender in the World Cup; offensively, he’s been extremely efficient.”

In a closely contested game like this, free throws played a pivotal role. Canada converted 24-of-28, while the USA went 24-of-32, giving Canada the slight edge they needed to secure the victory.

Coach Fernandez’s strategy stood out as he chose to trust his “death lineup,” a small ball unit, for extended minutes. Lu Dort, part of the starting five, had the best +/- rating of the game with +25 during his 32 minutes on the floor.

In the end, Canada stood atop the podium for the first time in their history. This medal adds substance to the talent base that Canada has showcased on the global stage. Their triumph in 2023 foreshadows even greater motivation for the Paris 2024 Olympics.

For the United States, this marked a historic moment as well, but of a different nature. They had previously been involved in the last overtime Third Place Game in 1990 when they narrowly defeated Puerto Rico, but the outcome in 2023 was not in their favor. Anthony Edwards concluded the game with 24 points.

Mikal Bridges reflected on the experience, saying, “We fought today, I’ll take that with me after this, but… It hurts. The biggest thing I’ll take away is the relationships with the coaches, the players, and the staff. That’s what I’ll take away from this experience.”

Steve Kerr, head coach of the USA, acknowledged the team’s efforts, stating, “Feel bad for our guys, they put so much into this for the last six weeks, an amazing group. It was tough to hang in there tonight without three guys who are important to the team. But these guys fought, Mikal hit an incredible shot to force overtime, we just ran out of gas. Canada deserved it, congrats.”
Coach Kerr also addressed the narrative surrounding USA basketball in FIBA, saying, “The narrative about USA basketball in FIBA, do we need reminders? We’re past that. These teams are really good.”

Dillon Brooks expressed his gratitude and pride in representing Canada, saying, “Just happy to be able to put this jersey on. I missed a couple of Qualifiers and Windows, and I’m just happy to be here with my teammates and put this jersey on, represent my country for all the Canadians out there.”

Coach Fernandez thanked his wife, Kelsey, for her support during his time away from home and Coach David Blatt, whom he referred to as his “angel.”

Brooks had a message for his critics, saying, “I just appreciate you, from the beginning. Everybody that was throwing shots on Twitter and Instagram, watching me play. It just helps me get better every day and motivates me to be better on the court for my teammates, for whatever team I’m playing for. It motivates me to keep going.”


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