They both fell short of the gold-medal game, but Sunday’s meeting between Team USA and Canada could be the beginning of a significant rivalry in international basketball, writes Brian Windhorst of ESPN. The teams will face off for third place as the Canadians hope to win their first-ever World Cup medal and their first in any tournament since the 1936 Olympics.
Both countries have rosters filled with NBA talent, and both had successful runs in the World Cup before slipping in Friday’s semifinals. The U.S. lost to Germany by two points, and Canada fell to Serbia by nine.
“They haven’t won a medal since the 1930s, so they’re coming for us,” Tyrese Haliburton said. “I think both of our countries will expect to see each other for the coming years. So it seems like this is kind of the start.”
Familiarity is part of the storyline as players bring their NBA rivalries into international competition. There are even some ex-teammates involved as Jaren Jackson Jr. will face Dillon Brooks for the first time since Brooks left the Grizzlies in free agency to sign with the Rockets.
“I hope Dillon does talk trash,” Jackson said. “Otherwise it wouldn’t be him. It wouldn’t be real.”
There’s more on the World Cup:
- After an All-NBA season, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has been one of the biggest stars of the tournament, notes Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports. The Canadian guard is sixth overall in World Cup scoring at 23.6 PPG and he’s number one in terms of scoring efficiency. “It’s the change of pace, yeah,” Thunder and Canadian teammate Luguentz Dort said. “Also, it’s the way he explodes, the way he can get off the defender to rise for his shot. The way that he handles the ball, the way that he creates for himself. There’s so much more.”
- Jonas Valanciunas has represented Lithuania in every major tournament since 2011 and he’s not ready to think about stopping, per George Efkarpidis of Eurohoops. The 31-year-old center considers it an important part of his basketball responsibilities. “I feel proud playing for my country,” Valanciunas said. “That is what I can give for my country. This is how I can put my country on the map. I am going to keep doing that (as long as) my body lets me and the team needs me.”
- Latvia wrapped up the fifth spot in its first-ever World Cup, defeating Lithuania by 35 points on Saturday. It’s an impressive statement from a team that played without Kristaps Porzingis, who sat out the tournament to recover from plantar fasciitis, and lost captain Dairis Bertans to an injury, observes Aris Barkas of Eurohoops.