Heading into the 2023 FIBA World Cup, Canada was one of the favorites to win the tournament. The Canadian team featured NBA players such as Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Dillon Brooks, Luguentz Dort, Dwight Powell, Kelly Olynyk, and RJ Barrett.
Knicks fans obviously had their eye on forward RJ Barrett, who will be entering his fifth season in New York. After a solid, not great 2022-23 season, the FIBA tournament would be a good way for him to get reps and build up confidence.
The tournament didn't start off too hot for RJ who only scored five points on 1/10 shooting against France. Finding other ways to be effective, he chipped in with six rebounds and five assists Luckily, Canada would rout France 95-65 and not need Barrett’s scoring.
He would rebound well in the next two games against Lebanon and Latvia.
Playing 20 minutes against Lebanon, Barrett scored 17 points on 7/12 shooting and was 3/6 from three in the 128-73 victory. He was also one of four Canadian players to be at least a +30 from the floor.
RJ looked even better in the Latvia game, hitting an efficient 9/14 shots (4/6 from three) and scoring 22 points, trailing only Shai Gilgeous-Alexander who scored 27. Canada continued their winning ways, crushing Latvia 101-75 to improve to 3-0.
After a poor shooting game to open the tournament (He was still a +24 in the France victory), Barrett refocused and combined to score 39 points on 16/26 shooting.
The Brazil game was not too kind to Barrett or Team Canada and one they’d like to forget. Losing an ugly 69-65 match, RJ would only score eight points on 1/8 shooting and finished as a -5.
To finish up the group stage, Canada would win a tightly contested game against Spain by a score of 88-85. Barrett was not effective in the fourth quarter and fouled out with 1:32 left but did score 16 points in the first three quarters. It wasn't Barrett’s best game of the tournament but it was a nice bounceback from his Brazil performance.
Canada matched up with Luka Doncic and Slovenia in the quarterfinals. The first half was back and forth and saw the two teams tied at 50. RJ got off to a slow start, only scoring six points in the first half. The third quarter of the Slovenia game is probably Barrett’s best of the entire tournament. Stepping up huge for his country, he would score 13 points in the third quarter and Canada would outscore Slovenia 30-21. To start the fourth, Barrett scored five more points to help push the lead to 14 and Canada never looked back. Behind RJ Barrett’s 24 points (18 of which were scored in the second half), Canada would advance to their first-ever FIBA World Cup semifinals.
Canada’s quest for a gold medal would unfortunately end at the hands of Serbia in the semis. Canada could never get going and saw themselves fall behind 23-15 after the first quarter. In the next ten minutes, Serbia extended their lead to 52-39 going into halftime. Barrett was one of the only bright spots for Canada in the first half, scoring ten points. Though the closest Canada would cut it was to seven in the second half, RJ looked good, scoring 13 more points and finishing with 23 points on 8/14 shooting.
RJ Barrett as Canada falls short in the World Cup semifinals to Serbia:— New York Basketball (@NBA_NewYork) September 8, 2023
23 points game high
1 steal pic.twitter.com/tMHS4fSX0C
Bronze medal game vs. USA:
The gold medal showdown many were hoping for, happened in the third-place game where Canada took on the U.S.
After eight points from Barrett in the first quarter, Canada would lead 34-25 after one. He would go scoreless in the second quarter and USA came to only be down 58-56 going into halftime. A three-pointer with 6:36 left in the third quarter to put Canada up 68-63 was Barrett’s first points of the second half. He’d score four more in the quarter and Canada led 91-82 with ten minutes to play. The fourth would see him add five more to his total and score 20+ points in his straight game.
Mikal Bridges did send the game to overtime with a wild three-pointer after an intentionally missed foul shot:
In overtime, Barrett hit a clutch three-pointer to put Canada up 124-115 with 44 seconds left, virtually icing the game.
Barrett finished with 23 points and seven rebounds on 8/16 shooting and was a +21 on the floor.
Canada would defeat the Americans 127-118 and earn themselves a podium finish.
Knicks fans should be encouraged by what they saw from RJ Barrett in this tournament. Aside from those two bad games, he averaged 20.8 points on 52.2 percent shooting and was Canada’s second-leading scorer behind Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
Barrett looked confident with the ball and needs to show that same confidence this upcoming season with the Knicks. The third overall pick in the 2019 NBA draft should have a big fifth year ahead.
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