Clash of styles up in World Cup semifinals
Serbia coach Svetislav Pesic turned his recent postgame interview into some sort of a platform for explaining the difference of play between two continents, a contrast that is expected to surface Friday in a pair of games that will determine the last two teams standing in the Fiba (International Basketball Federation) World Cup.
“The rhythm of the game is very important,” Pesic said in a lengthy session at the podium after Serbia’s elimination of fellow European Lithuania that eventually set up a semifinal date with a North American Canada team filled with familiar names from the NBA.
The geographical divide will be the same in the other semifinal pairing with Team USA facing Germany, a reprise of a tuneup match about 7,000 kilometers away in Abu Dhabi with far less important things at stake.
Canada and Serbia square off at 4:45 p.m. before the US-Germany later in the evening. The winners advance to the gold medal match while the losers square off for the bronze.
Team USA and Canada, oozing with talent and athleticism, will face European powers known for crisp ball movement, cuts to the basket and sweet shooting.
The two North American teams are considered favorites to march on to Sunday’s final, given the number of NBA talent and familiar names like Anthony Edwards and Austin Reaves for the United States and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and RJ Barrett for Canada.
But Serbia and Germany are looking to spoil that by brandishing that European style of play and a philosophy higlighted by Pesic eliminating erstwhile unbeaten Lithuania in the quarterfinals.
“You cannot play 40 minutes of fastbreak or play position offense,” said Pesic. “European basketball is other basketball. The NBA is basketball in flow. In Europe, the point is to find the rhythm of the game. Fastbreak, position offense [or] position offense, fastbreak. Inside game, outside game.”
Team USA has acknowledged that it continues to process what Fiba basketball is, though in some games the Americans have proven they can win on their strengths—as shown by their rout of Italy.
“It was our best defensive effort of the tournament to this point and that’s what it’s going to take to win two more games,” said USA coach Steve Kerr, whose squad didn’t have the stars many wanted, but a group of up-and-comers and role players that are meshing well.
Germany is the only team so far without a loss, surviving debutant Latvia in the quarterfinals. But it could capitalize on its size advantage with brothers Franz and Moe Wagner, Isaac Bonga and Daniel Theis looking to impose themselves against Jaren Jackson Jr., Paolo Banchero and Walker Kessler.
Pesic, who steered Serbia back to the semifinals after the country’s seventh-place finish four years ago, will be fielding a taller squad led by Nikola Milutinov, young forward Nikola Jovic and efficient guards in Bogdan Bogdanovic and Stefan Jovic.