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Canada makes history, France crashes out of World Cup

Good for RJ, bad for Forunier

BASKET-WC-2023-CAN-LBN Photo by ADEK BERRY/AFP via Getty Images

Ranked fifth in the FIBA Rankings, a former bronze medalist at the 2019 World Championship, and a runner-up at the 2022 EuroBasket, the French basketball team faced an abrupt exit from the World Cup after only two matches and a historic collapse.

In a stunning turn of events, France suffered an 88-86 defeat to tourney debutant Latvia, who notably didn’t include Kristaps Porzingis in their roster, as he’s nurturing an injury and couldn’t be called up for the competition.

France’s woes continued following their humiliating 30-point loss to Canada just two days prior, as they squandered a 12-point lead during the fourth quarter. While their hopes for a WC medal were destroyed on the spot, France is not going to miss the upcoming Olympics as the host nation of the 2024 event to be held in Paris next August.

With less than seven minutes remaining on the clock and holding a 75-66 lead, France was dealt a blow as Nando De Colo was ejected following his second technical foul. From that point on, Latvia went on a 10-point run spanning just two minutes, allowing the opposition to score a measly two points in that time, eventually edging ahead with 37 seconds remaining.

Evan Fournier was his sublime self and led the Frenchmen with 27 points, though he didn’t help his team a lot through the final minutes of the game and in crunch time.

Fournier only scored two points (on a couple of freebies) in the fourth quarter. He shot 9-of-18 from the field, 5-of-11 from beyond the arc, and a perfect 4-for-4 from the charity stripe. Fournier also pulled down three rebounds, dished out one assist, and committed four turnovers without any steal or block on D.

“We have to return home,” Fournier said after the game. “It’s incredibly tough. This wasn’t the way we anticipated departing from the tournament.”

Fournier dumped 21 points in his debut, followed that outing with 27, and although he ranks third in total points through Sunday (Jordan Clarkson had 49, Karl-Anthony Towns had 50), he’ll be packing his bags along with the rest of the French contingent’s members midweek. Sheesh.

In another World Cup matchup on Sunday, Canada made history by achieving something never before done in the realm of World Cup basketball: setting a new team-assists record with 44 against Lebanon as they trounced their opponents 128-73 in a humongous 55-point victory.

As many as nine players from Team Canada reached double-digit points against Lebanon, all of them led by New York Knicks franchise player RJ Barrett with 17 pops on the day.

Barrett hit that figure playing just 20 minutes, and that’s all he needed to seal Canada’s victory and their first advancement to the second round of the World Cup in four decades. Uh, oh, talk about a leader.

Following a lackluster two-point performance in his debut in which he shot a horrid 1-of-10 Barrett bounced back going for an efficient 7-of-12 from the field, 3-of-6 from three shooting outing. The forward added three dimes, one board, and one theft in his second WC game, finishing with a plus-32 rating. In 20 minutes. LOL.

As an interesting note, Lebanon’s dubious efforts were led by former NY Knickerbockers Legend Omari Spellman, who bagged 16 points for the Middle Eastern country in defeat. Peace.