A clutch RJ Barrett and Canada take the bronze medal at the FIBA World Cup to upset USA and Knick teammates Jalen Brunson and Josh Hart.
The New York Knicks will finally be returning stateside, with both the United States of America and Canada wrapping up their long-fought FIBA Basketball World Cup journey. Team USA will be coming home with nothing heavy to wear around their neck, while Team Canada took home the bronze medal over the USA during a 4 AM overtime battle for third place.
Let’s take a look at how all the Knicks fared in this game, and how they looked in their semifinal bouts.
Barrett & the Canadians
RJ Barrett was the sole Knick player on the Canadian team this tournament, and he certainly made his presence known in the third-place game against the USA, Jalen Brunson, and Josh Hart.
Barrett not only finished up with 23 points, seven rebounds, and two assists, but he also shot the dagger three-pointer that sealed Canada’s win. Barrett’s performance was outshined by that of Dillon Brooks, who had a 39-point explosion, but Barrett was impactful with his ability to play team defense and his ability to stay aggressive when he had the lane or opportunity to do so.
Barrett’s performance in the team’s semifinal battle with Serbia was pretty similar in production, scoring 23 points again while grabbing three boards and dishing out two assists. Barrett, along with the rest of Canada, was simply unprepared for the three-point shooting and defensive rebounding that Serbia brought, as well as unprepared for the uncharacteristically quiet performance from Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
Overall, an argument can be made that Barrett had the best FIBA tournament of all the Knicks involved in the international competition. Not only did he play an integral role in helping lift Canada’s men’s team to Olympic qualification, but he aided in forming the identity of the Northern team – defensively minded and able to make shots when they mattered most.
With his consistent play, Barrett will enter camp with New York ideally on a hot streak in his ability to play any position from shooting guard to small forward for Canada and playing well off of a guard like Gilgeous-Alexander who often shoots first and asks questions later.
RJ Barrett vs USA🍳
— Teg🚨 (@IQfor3) September 10, 2023
Brunson & Hart’s lackluster ending
Brunson and Hart entered the tournament with two different roles — Brunson was seen as more of a leader for a FIBA squad with more experience in that system under his belt, and Hart was seen as a hard-nosed “do everything” player for the team who could clean up their mistakes and make an impact unseen in the box score.
While both started off hot for Team USA, neither really made much of an impact for the team in either their semifinal game against eventual champion Germany or against Canada. Brunson was a minus-17 in their loss to Canada, scoring just 13 points and, more glaringly, only recording two assists. For that to be the finishing line for the team’s starting point guard is disappointing, to say the least, and heartbreaking as Knicks fans know they have seen the best of Brunson in do-or-die moments in just his one season with the team.
In the team’s loss to Germany, he had 15 points and seven assists, his impact being much more felt on the offensive end in his ability to create for his teammates despite the loss. But, he was poor on defense in both games and throughout the tournament, a sore spot that was already known about from watching New York’s games but especially felt in this tournament against the versatile, bigger teams that were competing against the USA.
Hart’s defense is hardly ever in question, but it was his inability to insert himself on offense that proved to be a problem during his time on the floor. Hart finished up the Canada game with 10 points but only one rebound, odd for a guard who prides himself on being able to win most 50-50 balls. He shot a perfect 4-for-4 from the field, but it was just not enough considering he was on the floor for 22 minutes during the loss. He also racked up five personal fouls, showing that even on defense he was not able to keep things clean.
In the loss to Germany, he had nine points, five rebounds, and an assist, and looked solid in his minutes on the floor. But, he again had a tough time on the glass against such a prolific rebounding team in Germany, and he had to play in smaller lineups due to Jaren Jackson Jr.’s poor performance on the glass.
It felt like both Hart and Brunson, were resting on bad habits. For Brunson, it was his tendency to chuck shots to get himself in a flow as well as to open things up for his teammates. For Hart, his hesitancy when it comes to his shot, despite it being very solid and him having an excellent season from three-point range, was more so looking to aid in throwing opposing defenses off and acting as a screener on offense.
If there was any player Knicks fans wanted to see show improvement this tournament, it was likely Barrett. In good news for them, Barrett was one of the better players on his team and the best Knick in the tournament by far. For Brunson and Hart, we can trust that they will continue to ramp back up for NBA action and will be back to form ahead of a Knicks season with high expectations.