It’s time for Team USA and Canada to take center stage at the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup.
The lights won’t be as bright as they could’ve been, but there will still be a medal on the line when the two countries face off on Sunday morning. Since the Americans and Canadians came up short in the semifinals, the winner will earn a bronze medal and a podium finish alongside Germany and Serbia.
Canada will be looking to avenge a nine-point loss to Serbia while the USA will be looking to bounce back from a two-point loss to Germany. Both countries are loaded with NBA players. Which team will come out on top?
Here are the keys to Sunday’s third-place game between the USA and Canada.
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Where USA vs Canada will be decided
The battle of the boards
Defensive rebounding was a problem in both of Team USA’s losses.
Against Lithuania, the Americans gave up 18 offensive rebounds that contributed to 17 second-chance points. Against Germany, they gave up 12 offensive rebounds that led to 25 second-chance points.
It’s not a huge surprise that Team USA has struggled to keep bigger teams off the offensive glass. Jaren Jackson Jr. excels on the defensive end of the court, but he spends a lot of his minutes in the NBA playing next to a center and has never been much of a rebounder. Rather than go big with Walker Kessler off the bench, head coach Steve Kerr has played a lot of small ball in the tournament with the 6-10 Paolo Banchero playing the five.
Neither Jackson nor Banchero is even Team USA’s leading rebounder. That honor goes to Josh Hart, a 6-4 small forward.
The bad news for the USA: Canada is averaging slightly more offensive rebounds in the FIBA Basketball World Cup (12.1) than both Lithuania (11.9) and Germany (10.4). Kelly Olynyk leads the way, but Canada’s guards have also done a good job of creating second-chance opportunities.
It will be another long night for Team USA if Canada dominates the boards like Lithuania and Germany did.
MORE: USA Basketball’s biggest flaw exposed in Germany loss
Which star will shine brighter?
Buckle up for one of the most fun individual matchups of the FIBA Basketball World Cup.
Their odds of being named Most Valuable Player took a hit with their teams no longer being in the running for a gold medal, but Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Anthony Edwards are two of the top players of the tournament.
Gilgeous-Alexander enters the contest with averages of 23.6 points, 6.4 rebounds, 5.6 assists and 1.9 steals per game. Serbia was able to slow him down, but Gilgeous-Alexander has been otherwise dominant. He recorded a double-double in Canada’s statement win over France, took over against Spain to earn a spot in the Olympics and then outplayed Luka Doncic to advance to the semifinals.
MORE: How Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is dominating the World Cup
Edwards hasn’t been quite as loud as his fellow NBA All-Star, but he’s Team USA’s leading scorer with 18.1 points per game. His 35-point game against Lithuania was the third-highest scoring performance of the tournament and he almost led another comeback with a team-best 23 points against Germany.
Team USA will likely have some combination of Edwards, Hart and Mikal Bridges chase Gilgeous-Alexander around. Edwards will likely get the same treatment Doncic did with the pesky Dillon Brooks and Luguentz Dort glued to his hip.
Even if they don’t spend much time guarding each other, all eyes will be on SGA and Edwards.
Getting to the line
Team USA and Canada have lived at the free throw line in the FIBA Basketball World Cup.
Through seven games, the Americans are averaging 25.3 free throw attempts per contest. Not far behind them are the Canadians, who are averaging 23.6. Gilgeous-Alexander is currently one of the best foul-drawers in the world. So is Austin Reaves, who leads Team USA in free throw attempts.
Not only will Team USA and Canada be looking to get to the free throw line, but both sides will be looking to stay out of foul trouble.
Jackson has been limited in a number of games due to foul issues. His rim protection will be critical against Gilgeous-Alexander, a relentless driver who does the bulk of his scoring around the basket.
For Canada, Dort and Brooks rank first and sixth, respectively, in fouls per game. Their perimeter defense will be needed against a USA attack that features Edwards, Bridges, Reaves, Jalen Brunson, Tyrese Haliburton and potentially Brandon Ingram, who sat the USA’s loss to Germany due to an upper respiratory illness.