MANILA, Sept 8 (Reuters) – Germany shocked the fancied United States 113-111 in a high-octane knockout match on Friday to set up a first-ever FIBA Basketball World Cup championship game against fellow European powerhouses Serbia.
Guard Andreas Obst carried Germany with his tournament-high 24 points and six assists, including a clutch 3-pointer to build a comfortable lead before they fended off a late rally by the U.S.
Orlando Magic guard Franz Wagner added 22 points while power forward Daniel Theis, who plays for the Indiana Pacers, contributed 21 points, to usher Germany into their first ever World Cup final.
“We played good defense, we were running around and we stayed mentally tough from first to the last guy,” Obst told reporters.
Obst’s step back 3-pointer from the right wing and Schroder’s jump shot gave the Germans a comfortable 113-107 lead with 40 ticks to go, despite a fightback by Team USA.
Germany will play Serbia at 1240 GMT on Sunday, after the third place match between the United States and Canada at 0830.
The United States made another slow start which proved costly, allowing the Germans to take a 25-15 lead off a Dennis Schroder 3-pointer with 4:30 minutes to go in the first quarter.
Team USA, composed of NBA players, recovered and engaged in a tit-for-tat contest to take a slim 60-59 lead at the break.
It was the highest-scoring tournament game since 1994, according to FIBA.
Germany controlled the third quarter, and kept up the pressure as Wagner’s layup with nine minutes to go in the final frame padded their advantage to 12 points.
Minnesota Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards led the United States with 23 points and eight rebounds. Fan favorite Austin Reaves provided a spark off the bench, scoring 21 points.
“The main point of the loss was just we weren’t ever able to make them feel us defensively,” Team USA head coach Steve Kerr told a press conference.
Team USA, ranked second by FIBA, will face Canada for third place on Sunday. They finished seventh, their worst-ever major international tournament result, in the 2019 edition.
In an earlier game, Serbia defeated Canada 95-86 by imposing themselves in the paint and controlling the boards.
Five Serbia players scored in double-digits, led by Atlanta Hawks guard Bogdan Bogdanovic with 23 points, four rebounds and three assists.
It will be Serbia’s second World Cup final, after losing to the United States 129-92 in 2014 edition in Madrid, Spain.
The Balkan nation’s stifling defense forced Canada into turnovers. Serbia entered the break with a 52-39 advantage and never let go of the lead.
“We knew we had to set the tempo before the game because if you follow their rhythm, it’s impossible to guard them,” Serbian center Nikola Milutinov, who scored 16 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, told reporters. “We had to make the first punch.”
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Canada’s leading scorer, passer, and rebounder, was held scoreless in the first 15 minutes amid tight coverage and foul trouble. He finished the game with 15 points, far below his tournament average of 25 points per game.