RJ Barrett Fuels Canada’s Historic Win Over Luka Doncic-Led Slovenia

RJ Barrett, Canada, Knicks

Getty New York Knicks wing RJ Barrett #9 of Canada dunks the ball against Ziga Dimec #27 of Slovenia during the FIBA Basketball World Cup quarterfinal game.

RJ Barrett exploded for 18 points in the second half as he fueled Canada‘s surge in a historic win over Slovenia 100-89 in a jampacked Mall of Asia Arena in the Philippines on Wednesday to march to the 2023 FIBA World Cup semifinals.

Barrett finished with 24 points, including 13 in the pivotal third quarter, nine rebounds, one assist and a steal. He was a plus-18 in almost 35 minutes.

With Barrett mostly silent in the first half, Luka Doncic willed Slovenia to a tight game against Canada.

Then Barrett started to come alive.

The New York Knicks‘ starting wing had six points in an 11-2 Canada run at the start of the third quarter to begin their breakaway.

His 3-pointer — his first and only made 3 in the game — with 3:54 left gave Canada a commanding 72-58 lead. By the time he was subbed, Canada had taken complete control of the game, 77-61, after he made two more free throws.

“I just came out aggressive [after halftime],” Barrett told Sportsnet Canada’s Arash Madani after the win. “I mean, Shae [Gilgeous-Alexander] kept on finding me. I missed way too many shots, you know. He gave me some great passes. So I was just aggressive and my guys are finding me.”

Luka Doncic Ejected

As Barrett and Canada surged ahead for good, Doncic’s frustrations boiled over. The Dallas Mavericks superstar was ejected after drawing his second technical foul with 6:37 left in the game. Canada’s Dillon Brooks was also thrown out with two technical fouls for taunting in the tense and physical knockout match.

Doncic left the game with 26 points in 29 minutes. But his teammates rallied without him and cut Canada’s lead to a single-digit, 94-85, on Gregor Hrovat’s layup with 4:17 left. 

However, Canada would not be denied their first quarterfinal win in the history of the World Cup.

Barrett and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander secured that with a pair of crucial rebounds each down the stretch.

Gilegous-Alexander led Canada with 31 points, 13 in the first half, on 8-of-12 shooting. Barrett went 9-of-22 from the field and 1-0f-6 from the 3-point arc but was a perfect 5-of-5 from the free throw line.

“It means a lot,” Barrett said of the win in his postgame interview at Sportsnet Canada. “This is the furthest we’ve been in program history in this tournament. So you know, this has been a special tournament. We’re just trying to keep it going.”

RJ Barrett, Canada Gear up for Serbia

Standing on Canada’s way to the gold medal match is Serbia, who marched to the semifinals despite being without two-time NBA MVP and newly-minted champion Nikola Jokic.

Serbia blasted Lithuania 87-68 in the quarterfinals, riding on Bogdan Bognadovic’s hot hands.

Bognadovic is Serbia’s leading scorer in the tournament, averaging 18.8 points per game. The Atlanta Hawks sharpshooter forms a formidable triumvirate with center Nikola Milutinov and Miami Heat’s 20-year-old power forward Nikola Jovic for Serbia.

Milutinov leads Serbia in rebounding, norming 8.8 per game on top of 13.2 points and 2.0 assists. Jovic has been a revelation in the tournament. The Heat’s young big, who is in the rumor mill involving Portland Trail Blazers superstar Damian Lillard, is averaging 10.7 points and 3.2 assists.




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