(Mall of Asia Arena)
4:45 p.m. — Serbia vs Canada
8:40 p.m. — US vs Germany
The United States has already sent a strong message after beating Italy black and blue in the quarterfinals of the FIBA Basketball World Cup.
Now, it’s the Germans’ turn to try to stop a rushing American freight train.
A pumped-up and intimidating US squad marches back to action, ready to knock out another hurdle standing in its path to secure a spot in the gold medal match of this prestigious 32-nation spectacle tonight at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Battle begins at 8:40 p.m. following the scheduled 4:45 clash between Serbia and Canada in the other semifinal pairing.
But the spotlight will be on head coach Steve Kerr and the Americans as the five-time champions look to advance to their first title match since winning it all in 2014 in Spain.
With Mikal Bridges flashing his offense with 24 points coupled with the Americans’ crushing defense, the US destroyed the Italians, 100-63, last Tuesday for its 15th semis appearance.
The Americans’ masterclass alone — a mighty bounce back after losing to Lithuania at the end of the second round — is enough to strike fear into the hearts of other squads.
As Kerr would put it, his players know well that they are already at the home stretch.
“It’s been a five-week journey for this group and there’s five more days, that’s how I look at it. We’re the horse turning back to the barn. The horse starts picking up the pace when it’s near the barn, and that’s what’s happening right now,” Kerr said.
“Our guys are just sensing this is the end of the journey and the energy has picked up. The pace, the force. They know what’s ahead. They know what the goal is, so I have no doubt they’ll come out with the same energy and same force in the next game.”
History also favors the Americans over their European rivals.
Germany has never beaten the US in three encounters in the World Cup (1986, 2002, 2006).
The Germans eliminated Latvia, 81-79, to reach the semis for the first time since 2002 when the Dirk Nowitzki-led team finished third.
Germany, which along with Serbia clinched a spot in the Paris Olympics, will rely on Toronto Raptors guard Dennis Schroder finding his shots early for a chance to pull off an upset of the mighty Americans.
Schroder shot 4-of-26 from the field last game and even missed his first nine shots. Backing him up are Franz Wagner, Andreas Obst and Johannes Thieman.
“The passion that he has for basketball, when it comes to the Olympics, the World Cup, stuff like that it, intensifies by 10, just because he’s so passionate about where he comes from,” American guard Austin Reaves, referring to Schroeder who used to be his teammate with the Los Angeles Lakers.
“They’re all like that.”
On the other hand, the 2014 runners-up Serbia has booked a ticket to the semis for the third time in the last four tournaments.
But the Serbians face an unfamiliar foe as it will be their first meeting with the Canadians, who already made history by securing their first-ever top four finish.
Serbia took down Lithuania, 87-68, while Canada toppled Slovenia, 100-89, in their quarterfinals meeting.
“We need to be ready, we need to recuperate as much as possible. The final score said we won by 20 against Lithuania, but we had to give it our 300 percent,” Serbian guard and top Most Valuable Player candidate Bogdan Bogdanovic said.
Canada head coach Jordi Fernandez braces for a tough fight against a fast and organized Serbian side handled by legendary mentor Svetislav Pesic.
“They are a very good team, coached by one of the best European coaches ever. I’ve watched him since I was a little kid, he won with FC Barcelona in 2003. A great coach, a great program, guys who know what it is, who have a lot of FIBA experience, something that we lack, but we’re getting this day by day,” Fernandez said, pinning his hope on Shai Gilgeous-Alexander to lead the Canadians.