MANILA, Philippines (Sept. 10, 2023) – Canada is coming home with some new hardware. Canada’s Senior Men’s National Team made history on Sunday, defeating the USA 127-118 in overtime at the FIBA Men’s Basketball World Cup 2023 to claim the bronze medal, earning the first medal at a World Cup in team history.
Dillon Brooks set a FIBA World Cup record for most points scored in a medal-winning game with 39 points. He shot 12-for-18 from the floor, including a blistering 7-for-8 from beyond the arc while adding four rebounds, five assists, a steal and two blocked shots in the victory.
“I would take this guy on my team every day of the week from now until the end of my career,” Team Canada head coach Jordi Fernández said.
His 39 points also set a new Team Canada Senior Men’s National Team scoring record for most points in a single game. Brooks scored 21 of his 39 in the first half where he shot 5-for-5 from beyond the arc.
“As a team we wanted this,” Brooks said. “ We wanted it, this bronze medal, to do something that hadn’t been done, to keep creating history. It’s a great stepping stone for us as a ball club, as a country, and we all just wanted to make our country proud.”
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander had 31 points, 12 assists, six rebounds and a block in the win. He shot 11-for-20 from the floor and a perfect 8-for-8 from the free throw line.
“He’s First-Team [All-NBA] for a reason," USA's Mikal Bridges said. "He’s just tough. An unbelievable player. He’s just really good.”
Anthony Edwards had 24 points for the USA while Austin Reaves scored 23 points and Bridges added 19 points in the loss.
RJ Barrett had 23 points and seven rebounds for Canada while Lu Dort and Kelly Olynyk scored 11 points apiece as Canada outlasted a furious comeback in regulation from Team USA to force overtime after Bridges made one of two free throws and then secured his own offensive rebound before racing to the corner to hit a three and tie the game at 111 with 0.6 seconds on the clock.
After Olynyk’s last-second attempt from deep was just off the mark, the teams went into overtime where Canada was ready.
“It was back and forth for the most part,” Gilgeous-Alexander said. “We built leads, they came back, we built another lead, they came back. It was a good team over there, they’re going to do that. We just stuck with it, stayed with our identity. The last five minutes we were really good and we were able to get a W.”
Brooks assisted Gilgeous-Alexander on a fadeaway jumper to open the extra session. After a defensive stop, Barrett missed a jumper, but Dwight Powell grabbed the offensive rebound and found Gilgeous-Alexander who shook two defenders then drilled a stepback three-pointer to put Canada ahead by five, 116-111, with 3:37 remaining.
Josh Hart hit one of two free throws, to get USA within four, but Canada continued to push. Brooks hit a fadeaway jumper from the baseline to keep Canada in front by six.
After a USA turnover, Gilgeous-Alexander drove and kicked the ball out to Barrett for an open three to put Canada up by nine with 43.8 remaining. An out of bounds turnover on Reaves and then an unsportsmanlike foul called on Bobby Portis Jr. gave Canada the opportunity to extend its lead and Dort made one of two free throws to put Canada up 10 with 36.1 seconds remaining. Reaves banked in a three with 22 seconds remaining, but Brooks sealed the win at the line.
“I was trying to get that 40 [points], free throws really count,” Brooks said. “It was amazing playing [with] Shai being very unselfish, finding me in the spots, our players moving every way possible, it was a team effort out there on the defensive end, getting rebounds. Regardless of what happened, even when they hit big shots. We found a way to hold it up.”
Whenever Canada needed a bucket, open look, or a stop, Brooks was there.
“Really proud of Dillon,” Fernández said. “This is how it looks like when they let Dillon Brooks play. And it’s not just on the defensive end that he is the best, with Lu, the best perimeter defender in the world. Offensively, he’s been extremely efficient. It’s not just this game…I don’t think it gets better than that.”
The praise was mutual as Brooks took time while speaking to the media after the win to shout out Fernández for the job he has done with the team in his first tournament since being announced as head coach at the end of July.
“We have a great coach who believes in us, has great schemes, is very patient with us, finds a way to motivate us every single day to get better and figures out how to get guys in the NBA, who don't get paid for this, to sacrifice,” Brooks said. “Kudos to Jordi, he’s been one of my best coaches I’ve ever played with and we’re grateful for everybody in this thing.”
Brooks was fantastic from start to finish as Canada opened the game strong with Brooks hitting a pair of three-pointers in the opening quarter as the team built a nine-point lead after the first 10 minutes of play. The USA came back in the second, using a 15-2 run to start the quarter.
A three from Brooks, his third of the game, snapped the USA run and brought Canada back within a point. A drive and score from Gilgeous-Alexander while he was fouled moved Canada back in front. After his free throw, Canada led 42-40 with 6:27 remaining in the half. Edwards and Gilgeous-Alexander traded baskets and then back-to-back three-pointers from Brooks to close the half put Canada ahead 58-56 at the break.
Brooks opened the third with a layup and then forced a steal on the other end, assisting Gilgeous-Alexander for a layup. Canada began to pull away late in the third. A corner three from Alexander-Walker extended Canada’s lead to nine with two minutes remaining in the quarter. Canada went into the fourth leading by nine, 91-82.
The USA opened the fourth on a 12-3 run and tied the game on a three from Tyrese Haliburton with 6:58 remaining. The teams traded baskets until a fadeaway from Gilgeous-Alexander and then free throws from Brooks put Canada in front by four with 20 seconds remaining, setting up the wild finish to regulation.
“They blessed us with five more minutes and shoot, why not take them,” Olynyk said of the team’s mindset heading into the overtime.
After beginning training camp in Toronto on August 1, Team Canada has spent every day together since. They have accomplished their goal of qualifying for the Paris Olympics and now have a medal to bring home from a World Cup for the first time in program history.
“This team was amazing,” Fernández said. “Special. It’s the beginning of something that’s going to last for a long time. All 12 guys came in and worked every day since August 1st. They got better at least 1 percent better every day and they built the identity that we just showed. It wasn’t perfect as we don't have a lot of experience in FIBA, but I think we’re here showing that we can do great things.”
As the final buzzer sounded, the team began celebrations on court before the medal presentation. Team Captain Olynyk, who has played more games with Team Canada than any other player on the roster, was the first to receive his medal.
“It’s special, man,” Olynyk said.“It’s special. You’ve got a great group of guys that came together. Fought for each other, fought for our country, represented our country with pride, with passion every day.”