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Canada loses, USA struggles, International Knicks grapple

2023 FIBA World Cup - USA Men’s National Team v Jordan Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

This one surely was a FIBA World Cup stunner.

Brazil pulled off a 69–65 upset victory over Canada during their matchup on Friday, dealing a significant blow to Team Canada’s previously unblemished record and chances at clinching a quarter-finals berth—they will only get there if they beat reigning champions Spain on Sunday.

The game had appeared to be in Canada’s grasp as they held a comfortable 12-point lead late in the third quarter, facing off against a Brazil squad struggling offensively.

Slowly but surely, Canada started to crumble and the South American nation mounted an impressive comeback, outscoring the Canadians 29–13 over the final 11 minutes.

Bruno Caboclo, a former Toronto Raptors—of all NBA franchises—player, spearheaded Brazilian supercharge.

Canada’s offense hit a major roadblock in the fourth quarter, particularly during Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s brief absence, resulting in a three-minute scoring drought. By the time Gilgeous-Alexander returned to the court, Brazil had seized the lead.

The loss places Canada (3–1) in a precarious four-way tie within Group L. Team Canada secured their place in the second round by demolishing Latvia 101–75 after destroying no. 5 France 95–65 in their opener. However, Latvia’s 74-69 surprise victory over Spain left all four teams in Group L deadlocked with seven points each.

It’s a do-or-die contest for Canada when they face Spain tomorrow, with a spot in the quarterfinals hanging in the balance and, most importantly, the chance of inching closer to qualifying for the 2024 Olympics in Paris.

While the U.S. has already secured their spot in the Olympics, Canada may have to win a six-team qualifying tournament next summer to earn their ticket to the Paris Olympics.

R.J. Barrett had another nightmarish outing shooting 1-of-8 after he went 1-of-10 in the opener against France a few days ago. For the math wiz out there, that’s a Starksian 2-of-18 in true homage to the legendary Knickerbocker.

RJ put up four points (a triple and a freebie), grabbed four boards, dished out one dime, and turned the ball over once while committing one theft. Day to forget.

In more positive news, Team USA clinched their fourth victory by defeating Montenegro 85-73 on Friday. This game was easily the most contested matchup the Americans have faced through the first stages of the World Cup.

The victory came down to the exploits of usual suspects Anthony Edwards (all 17 points scored in the second half) and this time, Tyrese Haliburton (12 points, six dimes off the pine in replacement of a struggling Jalen Brunson).

Montenegro did what they must, took advantage of their bigger size across the lineup, presented the Americans with a tough challenge, and reached halftime leading by one.

Although Team USA took the lead midway through the third period and never relinquished it, the point differential read four with just three minutes left on the clock. That tells you all you need to know.

Montenegro asserted their dominance on the boards, outrebounding Team USA 49–31 overall and a whopping 23-8 on the offensive glass.

Steve Kerr started both Brunson and Josh Hart but he ultimately went for bench solutions in the shape of Tyrese Haliburton and Austin Reaves.

Brunson struggled more than usual, recording a game-low minus-5 in a bit over 18 minutes of play before hitting the bench for the final 13 minutes of the match. Brunson shot 2-of-6 from the floor missing his lone threeball.

Meanwhile, Josh Hart started for the second consecutive game after Kerr decided to shuffle the lineup sending Brandon Ingram to the bench to lead the second unit. Hart couldn’t replicate his recent do-it-all performances, finishing the game with a low line including four points, two rebounds, two assists, and two steals. Hart (minus-1) was the only American in the negative along with Paolo Banchero (minus-1) and Brunson.

Team USA will face Lithuania (4-0) on Sunday in the second matchup of the second round after finishing first in Group C. Whoever wins this game will finish atop the group, facing the second-best team in the group including Italy, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, and Serbia.