After a generation of disappointment, Canada banished their international basketball demons once and for all on Sunday. They overcame a 12-point fourth-quarter deficit to beat defending champion Spain, advance to the knockout rounds, and book their trip to the Paris Olympics all in one fell swoop.
But it doesn’t get any easier from here. Their next test comes in the form of arguably the best player in the World Cup, Luka Doncic, who has Slovenia playing at a high level.
Slovenia is licking their wounds after a drubbing by Germany, but as we just saw in Team USA’s bounceback performance against Italy, sometimes the recently wounded animal is the most dangerous one.
Our FIBA World Cup betting picks for Canada vs. Slovenia believe the Canadians have the personnel to slow down Doncic’s otherworldly production.
Canada vs Slovenia odds
|+9 (-110)||Spread||-9 (-110)|
|Over 176 (-112)||Total||Under 176 (-108)|
Odds courtesy of DraftKings as of Sept. 6, 2023.
Canada vs Slovenia picks and predictions
It doesn’t get much better than an All-NBA First Team guard showdown in a single elimination game. With Luka Doncic vs. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, we're getting the two best players in the tournament, playing at the peak of their powers, and both desperate to will their teams to victory.
But it’s not going to be exactly a fair fight, and there’s a reason that Canada is the heavy favorite to win on Wednesday. While Shai is going to have a mismatch whenever he has the ball, Canada has a number of options when it comes to defending Doncic.
There aren’t any weak perimeter defenders on Canada getting meaningful minutes. If you were drafting NBA players to throw at Luka Doncic for a 40-minute game, Lu Dort and Dillon Brooks would both be taken in the first five picks. You could also do much worse than having RJ Barrett and Nickeil Alexander-Walker waiting in the wings after them.
Luka is not a player who wins through an overwhelming pace of play. Rather he wins by guile, coordination, touch, and underrated strength. The only weaknesses the Canadians have shown on defense this tournament have come against quick twitch guards. When it comes to a battle of brawn, they’re more than up to the challenge.
That guile of Luka’s usually results in a ton of fouls and free throws. Doncic is averaging 11.8 free throw attempts per game in the World Cup, and Canada has shown a weakness in conceding cheap fouls, but I don’t expect them to do worse in that department than Slovenia’s previous opponents.
Even if Luka baits Brooks into foul trouble, Dort, RJ, or NAW will be ready and on fresh legs to grind down the Slovenian superstar.
And wearing Luka down is the name of the game. The goal cannot be to shut him down, but to tire him out, and because this is the fifth game of the tournament, the Canadians have a distinct edge. Luka opened the tournament on a heater, starting with a 37-point game against Venezuela followed by 34 points against Georgia.
Since then, though? 19 each against Australia and Cape Verde, and then 22 points on 23 shot attempts against Germany. Luka’s high usage is tiring him out as the World Cup goes along, and he’s missing teammates like Goran Dragic and Vlatko Cancar who have been able to help shoulder some of the scoring burden in the past.
Canada is going to do their best not to let Doncic take 23 shots in the first place. They’ll hard hedge and blitz Luka regularly and rely on their backside defense to recover and live with the results. Brooks and Dort are both some of the best help and recover defenders in the NBA, and it’s in part why this is such a bad matchup for Slovenia.
Another strong indicator that Luka is tiring out is his 3-point shooting. Luka is never an elite perimeter shooter by the numbers because he takes a high volume of difficult shots, including many near the end of the buzzer, but his shooting during the tournament has been grizzly.
He’s taking more than eight attempts per game but hitting just 23.8% of them. Those are winning possessions for Canada’s defense, particularly if they keep his teammates from establishing any rhythm.
Luka started out hot, but he’s understandably been worn down as the World Cup has gone on. Doncic is averaging 26.4 points in the tournament, but most of those were accumulated in the early games. Getting this prop at 29.5 at plus money is just outstanding value given the depth of Canada’s perimeter defense.
My best bet: Luka Doncic Under 29.5 points (+115 at bet365)
Canada vs Slovenia same-game parlay
For my first FIBA World Cup quarterfinal same-game parlay, I’m taking Doncic Under 29.5 points, Mike Tobey to record 2+ assists, and Slovenia to cover at +8.5 to go alongside Mike Tobey 2+ assists, and Slovenia cover at +8.5.
As I’m expecting the Canadians to force the ball out of Luka’s hands regularly, the natural question is what happens next. Typically, that means Luka squeezes a pass through the narrowest of gaps to Mike Tobey who came to set the screen for him in the first place.
Tobey is an outstanding short-roll passer, and that’s a major asset when he’s going to frequently be rolling with a 4-on-3 advantage after Doncic passes out of a blitz. Slovenia spreads the floor well, so that should see Tobey with plenty of assist opportunities.
The reason I like Slovenia to cover is largely due to the amount of market movement that’s taken place. At +8.5, you’re getting three free points compared to where the line opened on Sunday.
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Canada vs Slovenia spread and Over/Under analysis
Canada opened as 5.5-point favorites over Slovenia for Wednesday’s quarterfinal, which has grown as high as nine points at some sportsbooks.
While it can be overly simplistic, games like this often come down to who has the best player. To some, that might make this line much too heavily skewed in Canada’s favor, but while Luka is still a better offensive player than SGA, the gap between the two has narrowed on that end. Shai is also a defensive playmaker to a degree that Luka is not, and will never be.
While Shai hitting the go-ahead step back against Spain was the highlight that dominated sports shows, what happened after was just as crucial. On the next defensive possession, SGA got beat off the dribble, but recovered and deflected the pass, forcing a critical turnover. SGA racks up steals and blocks at the guard position, and those key Canada’s most efficient possessions: transition attacks.
Canada showed real mettle in taking down Spain, but Luka & Co. presents a new kind of challenge. Latvia gave Canada trouble early before they adjusted to their pace and shooting, and Slovenia has outstanding shooters including Klemen Prepelic filling in around Doncic. While blitzing and hard hedging should slow Luka down, if the backside help isn’t on point, Slovenia’s offense could still hum.
The total for Wednesday’s tilt has been steadily climbing since Sunday morning. While it opened at 173.5, that’s climbed by as many as four points to 177.5 at the time of writing. While the two offensive superstars in SGA and Luka are getting top billing, I don’t agree with that line movement.
Canada’s identity has been built around their defense since the exhibition games. The only game they helped combine for a total that high came against Lebanon, who were simply nowhere close to competitive.
Slovenia doesn’t have a suite of outstanding defenders the way Canada does, but they’re not pushovers either. With Canada so well positioned to slow down Slovenia’s primary weapon, I’d lean Under here and bet against the line movement.
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Canada vs Slovenia game info
|Location:||Mall of Asia Arena, Manila, Philippines|
|Date:||Wednesday, September 6, 2023|
|Time:||9:30 a.m. ET|
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Canada vs Slovenia key injuries
Canada: No key injuries to report.
Slovenia: No key injuries to report.
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