2023 FIBA World Cup Quarterfinals Recap: Germany and Canada advance to the semifinals

The semifinal matchups for the 2023 FIBA World Cup are set. Dennis Schroder and Germany eliminated Davis Bertans and Latvia, and Shai Gilgeous Alexander and Canada eliminated Luka Doncic and Slovenia. They’ll face Team USA and Serbia respectively.

Apr 14, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (2)
Apr 14, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (2) / Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

After a disappointing first day of quarterfinal matchups, today’s games did not disappoint. Latvia had a do-or-die 3-pointer from Davis Bertans to win it at the buzzer but wasn’t able to knock it down. Luka Doncic and Slovenia put up a fight against Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Canada. They kept things interesting right until the end, even after Doncic got ejected early in the fourth quarter. 

Here are three takeaways from today’s games.

Three Points: Germany prevails as Dennis Schroder flops, third-quarter pause kills Slovenia, and FIBA officials draw ire of many

Dennis Schroder has his worst game of the tournament, Franz Wagner is back, and Germany hold on

Remember Game 7 of the 2022 Eastern Conference Finals where Boston almost choked away a double-digit lead in the final three minutes? Jimmy Butler took a transition 3-pointer down two with Miami’s final possession, and he missed. Many criticized the shot, even though it was the right call. 

Davis Bertans did the same thing for Latvia at the end of their game against Germany today. Down two with one shot left to win the game, he hosted a semi-contested, off balance, 3-pointer from deep. Like Butler’s shot a year ago, it was the right shot. 

Latvia is going home, after playing yet another terrific game of team basketball that they can hopefully build on and turn into qualification for the Olympics at next summer’s qualifying tournaments. 

They got off to a strong start. Bertans in particular was finding open spots and knocking down shots early. He finished with 20 points thanks to six 3s, and Latvia’s leading scorer on the day was Arturs Zagars who continues to dazzle and impress.

Zagars finished with 24 points, 8 assists, and only two turnovers. He had a nice game-recognize-game moment with Dennis Schroder post-game, and his agent’s phone is probably inundated with interest. Zagars is still a free agent, but probably not for long. 

Speaking of Schroder, today was not his day. Latvia frustrated him. They forced him to attack from the left wing, far from his favorite spot on the court and swarmed him on drives without fouling. Schroder was suffocated at the rim to the point where even making the right kick-out pass wasn’t easy. 

He finished with 9 points on 4-of-26 shooting from the field. Thankfully, his teammates stepped up behind him. Franz Wagner made his return from the bench and led the team with 16 points. He was followed by Andreas Obst with 13, his brother Mo with 12, Johannes Thiemann with 10, and Daniel Theis with 9. 

Hopefully, Schroder got the bad game out of his system. Team USA is up next and a similar performance will bring on Germany’s downfall. It would also behoove Team USA to watch how Latvia defended him and implement some of it themselves. Latvia’s schemes with Team USA’s superior ability could be a nightmare for Schroder.

Luka Doncic and Slovenia were in the game until they weren’t

Slovenia and Canada was a shootout, which shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. If you put Luka Doncic and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander against one another in a big do-or-die game, and surround them with spacing, the scoreboard will soar. 

Gilgeous-Alexander got going early. He was getting to his spots in the 12-18 foot range and his touch was exquisite. Slovenia could not contain him 1-on-1, so they started to send more help. This left the likes of Kelly Olynyk, Dillon Brooks, and Lu Dort open for three and they all knocked down at least one three in the opening period. 

Slovenia had a similarly hot start though. Doncic hit a stepback early and got to the line a couple of times, he was struggling in the mid-range but quickly distributed around Canada’s swarms of defenders. Mike Tobey, Klemen Prepelic, Aleksej Nikolic, and Zoran Dragic were all getting a piece of the action. 

Slovenia was only minus-one during Doncic’s first rest, but the first key run of the game came after Doncic got his first technical foul of the day with Slovenia leading 40-38. Canada made the free throw, then Nickeil Alexander-Walker knocked down a 3, Slovenia missed a three and Canada got a fastbreak bucket to force a timeout. 

Out of the timeout and to close the first half, things got really interesting. Both teams went with small ball, five-out line-ups, and gave their respective offenses even bigger boosts. Doncic scored a quick five points and the game was tied at 50 at halftime. 

Canada finally started to get separation in the third quarter. A slow start eventually turned to a quick double-digit lead as RJ Barrett started to find his rhythm. He finished with 11 points in the third, and as he started to heat up Slovenia struggled to respond. 

Strangely enough, this was because Doncic was largely uninvolved on offense for a solid 3-4 minute stretch. Possession after possession he went and stood in the corner and let Prepelic and others run pick-and-roll. Perhaps he was tired, he had every reason to be. But to watch this happen with the tournament on the line was perplexing, and Canada eventually built their lead to 16. 

Doncic did finally wake up and led Slovenia on a plus-seven run to close the quarter and Slovenia trailed by 9 heading into the fourth. Then, there were two ejections. First, it was Dillon Brooks with seven minutes left, and then Doncic about 20 seconds later. 

Slovenia was down 15, and they refused to give up and put up a valiant fight. They got it to 94-85 with four minutes to go and got two good looks from three, but neither went down. Gilgeous-Alexander got the rebound, scored at the other end, and the game was over then. Slovenia fought hard and their entire team impressed, but Canada had too much talent for them.

We have to talk about the officiating

We’re not fans of this, at all, and we don’t mean the officiating we mean getting involved in this commentary. Being an official is a thankless job. The best ones go unnoticed. Unfortunately, the officials have been noticed at this tournament, particularly in today’s game between Slovenia and Canada. 

Generally speaking, the officials called a good game today until the fourth quarter. There are definitely a few instances you can point at where Doncic or Gilgeous-Alexander should’ve gotten a foul call, but they didn’t. This happens to these guys in every game. It’s the price of stardom, the price of being too good for anyone to guard you. Defenders have to foul you, and the officials can’t call all of them, so they get away with some of it. It’s harsh, but it’s the reality. 

However, ejecting Doncic — and to a lesser degree, Brooks — in a game of this magnitude is absurd. Sure, we don’t know what was said or what was going on exactly out there, but ejecting players of that quality is a game-deciding decision. You have made the game about a decision YOU made as an official, and no longer about the player's skill and execution. That’s not your job, in fact, it’s the opposite. Being an official requires thick skin, and taking an earful from stars. Roll with it and call the rest of the game, let them decide, not you. 

Okay, rant over, and a reminder that we said the officials did a good job besides the ejections and we’d like to add that they have been good for most of the tournament. We thank them for listening to complaints from Doncic to Elie Okobo.

2023 FIBA World Cup Line of the Day:

Klemen Prepelic with 22 points, 4 3-pointers, 5 rebounds, and 3 assists off the bench for Slovenia. 

2023 FIBA World Cup Play of the Day:

This and-1 dunk from RJ Barrett during his impressive third-quarter performance.

2023 FIBA World Cup Quote of the Day:

All things Dillon Brooks. He came out to a cacophony of boos that continued every time he touched the ball today, and what on earth was this boxing gloves thing?

What’s coming tomorrow at the 2023 FIBA World Cup?

Nothing! Back on Friday for the semifinals. Serbia faces Canada at 4:45 a.m. ET and Team USA face Germany at 8:40 a.m. ET. We’ve picked Canada and Germany to advance, and Canada to win gold.   

A final note here, all four semifinalists have now officially qualified for the Olympics. Latvia, Slovenia, Italy, the Dominican Republic, etc. will have to qualify via next summer’s Olympic Qualifying tournament.