Dillon Brooks went from receiving boos earlier in the tournament to hearing MVP chants. And he thanked his haters after a scintillating performance.
Brooks had a game-high 39 points in leading Canada to its first-ever medal at the FIBA Men’s Basketball World Cup with a 127-118 overtime win over the U.S. in the bronze-medal game on Sunday in Manila, Philippines.
The Mississauga, Ont., native’s output set a Canadian single-game scoring record for most points in a FIBA World Cup, topping Carl Ridd’s mark of 37 in 1954. He went 7-of-8 from three-point range and 12-of-18 overall from the field.
“I just appreciate you,” Brooks said at the post-game press conference. “From the beginning, everyone that was throwing shots on [X, formerly known as Twitter], Instagram, watching me play but it just helps me get better each and every day.”
“Just happy to be able to put this jersey on,” he said when asked about his performance and the game. “I missed a couple of qualifiers and windows and I’m just happy to be here with my teammates, and represent my country, for the Canadians out there.”
Canada improved to 2-21 all-time against the U.S. in FIBA senior men’s competitions. The lone previous win came at a FIBA Americas event in 2005, a game that wasn’t loaded with big-name NBA players. This one was, Canada having seven on its roster and the U.S. having all 12 of its players hail from the league.
But three of those U.S. players — Brandon Ingram, Paolo Banchero and Jaren Jackson Jr. — missed the game with illness. Anthony Edwards led the Americans (5-3) with 24 points, Austin Reaves scored 23 and Bridges had 19 for the U.S.
WATCH | Canada claims 1st men’s Basketball World Cup medals:
Canada will play for bronze on Sunday after a 95-86 defeat to Serbia at the FIBA World Cup. Serbia, led by Atlanta Hawks star Bogdan Bogdanovic dominated Canada on both ends of the court. Canada will face the USA in the 3rd place game on Sunday.
Canada head coach Jordi Fernandez was quick to praise Brooks for his work.
“Really proud of Dillon, this is how it looks like when they let Dillon Brooks play,” he said. “And it’s not just on the defensive end. With Lu [Dort], he’s the best perimeter defender in the World Cup.”
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander finished with 31 points, six rebounds and a game-high 12 assists for Canada, with RJ Barrett adding another 23 points and seven rebounds.
Gilgeous-Alexander was named a tournament all-star after the Oklahoma City Thunder guard boasted averages of 24.5 points, 6.4 rebounds, 6.4 assists, and 1.6 steals per game.
Relationships built ‘stay forever’
The medal is also Canada’s first on either the World Cup or Olympic stage since 1936 when Canada earned silver at the Berlin Games. That final was played outside, in a rainstorm, on a clay court that probably would have been better served that day as a slip-and-slide.
“The medal means a lot to the guys, the program, the board, the country, everybody, coaches,” Fernandez said. “I think that an accomplishment like this, you don’t know what it is until you do it.
This team was amazing. It’s the beginning of something that is gonna last for a long time.— Canada head coach Jordi Fernandez on bronze-medal victory
“What you went through together for all these days and wins and losses and the emotions, it’s just very different. They will never know, we are the only ones that know. All these relations that we’ve built are gonna stay there forever.”
Fernandez, an assistant with the NBA’s Sacramento Kings, lauded his team for their efforts dating back to training camp in early August.
“This team was amazing, special,” said Fernandez, who took over the job in June from Nick Nurse. “It’s the beginning of something that is gonna last for a long time, and all 12 guys, came in and worked every single day since Aug. 1, and they built the identity that we shown resiliency.
“I think we’re here showing that we can do great things.”
The win puts a wrap on a historic run through the tournament for the 15th-ranked Canadians.
Canada made it to the second round of the tournament for the first time since 1998 and placed first in the group phase for the first time ever.
Canada’s win over top-ranked defending champion Spain in the second round earned its qualification for the Paris 2024 Games, ending an Olympic drought dating back to 2000. It was also the first time since 1994 that Canada advanced to the quarterfinals.
The Canadians’ semifinal loss to sixth-ranked Serbia on Friday was their first-ever appearance in the final four.
‘We really wanted to play the U.S.’
Brooks credited the defeat for the extra motivation.
“Just a tough loss to Serbia and around the locker room, we really wanted to play the U.S. and we got our wish,” he said. “I sent in the group chat that, ‘We got what we wanted, let’s be ready to play.’
“And I’m just feeling really good. Having that edge every single game and remembering how I prepared for the game, how I was trying to be a leader for my teammates.”
The U.S. fell to 11th-ranked Germany in the other semifinal Friday. Germany defeated Serbia 83-77 for its first-ever World Cup gold medal on Sunday.
Canada entered the fourth quarter up 91-82 after the U.S. trimmed the lead to just two entering halftime.
After a three-point play from Kelly Olynyk that put Canada up 10, the Americans stole the momentum with a 12-0 run to take the lead with 6:23 remaining.
But with 34 seconds left, Gilgeous-Alexander hit a go-ahead jumper putting Canada up 109-107. After a pair of free throws from Brooks, who received one of multiple rounds of MVP chants from the crowd, put Canada up four, the U.S. struck late again.
Mikal Bridges was fouled with four seconds left and made the first attempt. But he missed the second, corralled the rebound and hit a tough fadeaway three with 0.6 seconds left.
Canada got one more possession but Olynyk missed a fadeaway three-point attempt, sending it to overtime.
Americans left to regroup before Paris 2024
In the extra session, Gilgeous-Alexander put Canada ahead by six with a personal 7-1 run.
Barrett later put Canada up 124-115 with a straightaway three with 44 seconds left to seal it.
The Canadians held the U.S. to one field goal in overtime, a Reaves three with 22 seconds left.
And now it’s over. Another World Cup, another debacle for the Americans. They finished seventh in China four years ago, fourth in Manila — losing three of their final four games — and now have less than 12 months to regroup for the Paris Games and the quest to win a fifth consecutive Olympic gold medal.
There just wasn’t enough defence, once again. This tournament marked the first Olympic or World Cup appearance where a U.S. team gave up at least 100 points three different times. The Americans went 0-3 in those games in Manila.