Previewing the Semi-Finals: Can Serbia Stop MVP Shai with Their Defense and Speed?

Can Serbia Stop MVP Shai with Their Defense and Speed?

In an exciting match between two fast and athletic teams, we’re wondering if Serbia can make it to the Finals after not being there for nine years. Or will Canada make it to the title game for the very first time?

We’ll find out on Friday when the game starts at 4:45 a.m. ET or 1:45 a.m. PT in Canada, 10:45 a.m. CET in Serbia, and 16:45 local time at the Mall of Asia Arena in Manila.

Key Matchup: Just two days after defeating one of the top MVP contenders, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is facing another big challenge. He’s going up against Bogdan Bogdanovic, who’s a real threat when he plays for the Serbian national team. Bogdanovic has been playing exceptionally well in this World Cup.

Bogdanovic is averaging 18.8 points, 4.8 assists, 3.2 rebounds, and 2.2 steals per game. If you ignore one bad shooting game against Italy, he’s been making an impressive 50% of his three-point shots in the other five games.

Gilgeous-Alexander has been Canada’s star player, scoring more than 30 points in two consecutive games. He’s averaging 25 points, 7.2 rebounds, 5 assists, and 1.7 steals per game while shooting a remarkable 54.7% from the field. His efficiency rating is off the charts, which is unusual for a guard.

X-Factors: The battle among the big players could be crucial. Canada recently used a smaller lineup without traditional power forwards or centers against Slovenia. This helped them create more space on the court and play good defense.

But against Serbia, this might be a problem because Serbia has two strong centers, Nikola Milutinov and Filip Petrusev. Kelly Olynyk and Dwight Powell from Canada will have a tough job, and their performance could make a big difference for Canada.

Stats to Watch: Serbia needs to make sure they block out everyone on the Canadian team when it comes to grabbing offensive rebounds. All the Canadian players are good at getting those second chances. Canada gets an impressive 13 offensive rebounds per game, leading to 13.3 points every night.

However, being too aggressive in getting offensive rebounds could leave Canada vulnerable on the defensive end because Serbia is excellent at fast breaks. They score a lot of points from turnovers and fast breaks, which gives them an advantage over Canada in these areas.

Past Games: Canada hasn’t played Serbia directly, but they have faced the former FR Yugoslavia in 1998, 2000, and 2002. FR Yugoslavia is made up of what is now Serbia and Montenegro.

In 1998, FR Yugoslavia convincingly won their FIBA Basketball World Cup game with a score of 95-55, with all 12 players contributing. In 2000, Canada got revenge at the Olympics, thanks to a great performance by Steve Nash, who had 26 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists, resulting in an 83-75 win in the Group Stage.

Their last match was in 2002 during another World Cup. The current Serbia head coach, Svetislav Pesic, was in charge of FR Yugoslavia, and they won 87-71, with Peja Stojakovic scoring 23 points and getting 10 rebounds. Rowan Barrett, RJ Barrett’s father and the current general manager of Canada Basketball, scored 18 points for Canada.

Quotes from Key People:

Bogdan Bogdanovic, Serbia: “This is how the tournament goes. We didn’t have time to celebrate our win over Lithuania. We had to regroup quickly, watch Slovenia vs. Canada, and prepare for that game. We need to be ready and give it our all.”

Svetislav Pesic, Serbia Head Coach: “In the Quarter-Finals, we had 25 assists again a strong opponent. We’re the best team in the World Cup when it comes to fast break points, scoring 25 points per game. We might not have a lot of tall players, but we find ways to use our strengths and hide our weaknesses. Every player gives their best for the team, and that’s important for us.”

Jordi Fernandez, Canada Head Coach: “They are a very good team, coached by one of the best European coaches ever. We’re getting better every day, and when we play Serbia, we’ll be better than we were against Slovenia.”

RJ Barrett, Canada: “We watched Serbia’s last game against Lithuania. They play well and together. I’m excited to go up against my high school teammate, Filip Petrusev, who plays for Serbia.”


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