MANILA, Philippines – Mikal Bridges has performed an overtime miracle. It wasn’t enough to keep Team USA from going home empty-handed from the World Cup, and after an 87-year wait, Canada has won another medal on one of basketball’s biggest stages.
Dillon Brooks scored 39 points, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander added 31 points and 12 assists and Canada won its first medal at a global men’s tournament since 1936 by topping the U.S. 127-118 in the third-place match in Manila on Sunday.
The US failed to medal at the World Cup for the second time in a row. It is only the seventh time in 38 appearances at the Olympic or World Cup level that an American team has failed to come away with gold, silver or bronze.
“The United States has not won the World Cup since 2014,” said American coach Steve Kerr. “It’s difficult. These teams in FIBA are really good, well coached, they have continuity and have been playing together for a long time. This is difficult and it has already been difficult.”
The Americans were the favorites entering the tournament, but then lost three of their last four matches. Frustrated, angry and disappointed, they left the stage in Manila for the last time.
“All of the above,” said American guard Tyrese Haliburton.
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RJ Barrett scored 23 for Canada (6-2), which improved to 2-21 all-time against the U.S. in senior FIBA competition. The only previous victory came at a FIBA Americas event in 2005, a game that was not packed with major NBA players. This one was: Canada had seven on the roster and the US had all twelve players out of the league.
But three of those American players – Brandon Ingram, Paolo Banchero and Jaren Jackson Jr. – missed Sunday’s game due to illness. Anthony Edwards led the Americans (5-3) with 24 points, Austin Reaves scored 23 and Bridges had 19 for the U.S.
“This team was great, special,” said Canadian coach Jordi Fernandez. “It’s the start of something that will last for a long time.”
Bridges made an incredible play in the final seconds of regulation, going to the line with 4.2 seconds left with the US needing a miracle with four seconds left.
He delivered one.
Bridges made the first free throw, intentionally missed the second and walked past the rebound as it bounced toward the right corner. Bridges corralled the ball, turned and let it fly from just behind the three-point line.
Swiss. Match tied with 0.6 seconds left. Kelly Olynyk nearly won it for Canada in the final regular game with a 30-footer that hit the back iron as time expired, and they went into overtime tied at 111-111.
“I just tried to give it a good miss. That’s exactly where you want the ball in those situations,” Bridges said. “Just read and respond… went to film it.”
But Canada was undeterred and never trailed in the extra session.
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“We won the first forty minutes. Of course not, but we won most of the first 40 minutes and we didn’t think it was a fluke,” said Gilgeous-Alexander. “So we just tried to focus on winning the next five.”
That’s exactly what they did, and now it’s over. Another World Cup, another debacle for the Americans. They finished seventh in China and fourth in Manila four years ago – losing three of their last four matches – and now have less than 12 months to regroup for the Paris Games and the quest to win a win fifth consecutive Olympic gold medal.
“Super tough, but I can’t win them all,” Edwards said. “Few short twice.”
That would be twice in the medal round, against Germany and now Canada, and again against Lithuania in the second round – where the undoing of this American World Cup run began.
Once again there was not enough defense. This tournament marked the first Olympic or World Cup appearance in which a U.S. team had to surrender at least 100 points three times. The Americans lost 0-3 in those games in Manila and lost to Lithuania, Germany in the semi-finals and Canada on Sunday.
“I mean, we couldn’t make any stops,” Edwards said. “Our defense was pretty bad.”
Canada’s only other medal in a tournament of this magnitude – the World Cup or the Olympics – came in 1936, when it lost 19-8 to the US in the gold medal match at the Berlin Games. That final was played outside, in a rain shower, on a clay court that could probably have served better as a slip-and-slide that day.
This was for bronze, not silver. But it’s safe to say Canada enjoyed it even more than that better finish 87 years ago.
“We really wanted to play the USA,” Brooks said. “We got our wish.”
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