Canada clinched its first World Cup semifinals ticket in its history this Wednesday after defeating Luka Doncic’s Slovenia at the Mall of Asia Arena in Manila in a very close game (100-89) that ended via a stunning third Quarter decided the North American team led by the Spaniard Jordi Fernández.
The semi-finals are already set. United States and Germany on one side; and Canada and Serbia on the other side. The Canadians showed their superiority in a third quarter in which they were vastly superior (30-21), with their star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander doing and doing whatever he wanted throughout the game.
The meeting had a very special appeal beyond the release for the next round. The duel between Shai Gilgeous-Alexander himself and Luka Doncic was one of the most anticipated of the World Cup, two leaders of their teams who had to do their best to equalize the other. And they didn’t disappoint us. Shai had 31 points, Luka 26.
How could it be otherwise, the game was very balanced. In the first two quarters there was no greater advantage than four points. Gilgeous-Alexander gave a presentation on how to be effective in one-on-ones from the middle distance, while Doncic made the basket while protesting the decisions of the referee team, which ultimately led to his being disqualified with six minutes to go became.
It was an intense game, very tactical and in which each team’s second swords shone. In Canada, Dillon Brooks and RJ Barret bothered the Slovenian defense with a much larger squad; and Klemen Prepelic was the perfect partner for Doncic to wreak havoc.
Jordi Fernández’s Canada best moment came early in the third quarter. He managed to stop Doncic and was strong in attack, taking a 2:11 run to 61:52, which shortly afterwards became 69:55, a lead that initially seemed insurmountable.
Not for Doncic, who didn’t give up. It looked like the ex-Real Madrid player could turn things around with a bleeding-stopping three-pointer and the positive Canadian part, but RJ Barret’s reaction with another three-pointer dashed Slovenia’s hopes again.
Slovenia scored another three, but Gilgeous-Alexander again responded from the line of three. It all came out for Canada, who actually left with a nine-point lead. Anything could happen in the final quarter.
Canada sentence at the end
However, the game followed the script of the final quarter. Slovenia tried to stop the Canadians, who finished without Brooks (disqualified), but it was impossible. Too much potential for the North American team, who led by 15 points (92-77) with six minutes left.
It was Canada’s continuity, a killing machine that doesn’t fail when given the opportunity, that brought down a Slovenia that didn’t know how to get out of its bind. Spain suffered and Latvia suffered. Doncic wasn’t enough to stop Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and co., whose favoritism continues to increase, to at least get to the finals. Before that, of course, it’s Serbia’s turn in the first semi-final.