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MANILA, Philippines – There are no second chances in the 2023 FIBA World Cup and loaded team Canada learned that the hard way after Serbia came out of the gates with guns blazing on the way to a 95-86 knockout semifinal win at the Mall of Asia Arena on Friday, September 8.
With captain Bogdan Bogdanovic at the forefront of the blistering attack from all areas of the court, the Orlovi (Eagles) – notably without NBA MVP Nikola Jokic for the tournament – cruised for much of the contest, making what was touted to be a nip-and-tuck affair to just a one-sided basketball clinic.
NBA rising star RJ Barrett, after leading the losing cause with 23 points, could only tip his hat to the returning World Cup finalists, who are now primed to avenge their 2014 silver medal finish nine years later.
“Credit to Serbia, they played a great game,” he said. “They played hard, they played physical, and they’re very well-coached and disciplined give them credit for that. They started out fast. We’re kind of down 10-12 points basically the whole way. But we fought the whole time, just credit to them.”
No matter how much offense Canada put out to respond, Serbia was just on a torrential warpath from inside and out, eventually recording a scorching 62% from the field, 71% from two-point range, and 45% from three.
Barrett believed Canada did enough to not bend to Serbia’s physicality, but still rued that his team’s rotations were just unnaturally out of sync at a most critical juncture of the tournament.
“I think both teams played pretty physically today. They did some random trapping, they were trying to get steals. They definitely played hard,” Barrett recalled.
“I think we played hard as well, but obviously, our defense could’ve been way better. Our defense has normally been good throughout this tournament.”
Early foul trouble also played a role in cuffing Canada’s defense, as top star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander collected two early ones in the first quarter, while agitator Dillon Brooks got his fourth early in the third period.
Barrett, however, refused to draw himself into the narrative that a refereeing issue played a role in Canada’s downfall.
“We had some breakdowns defensively, but one thing, I think when we were out there, we gave what we had, whether it was trying to fight off screens, and just anything, boxing out,” he continued.
“We gave what we had. We played hard and we got called for some of those fouls. We can’t really control that.”
Now relegated to the bronze-medal match, Barrett remains locked in to the task at hand of ending Canada’s historic campaign with its first-ever podium finish.
“It was honestly a fun game to be a part of even though we lost. Just being able to gain this experience. We have one more. We got to go win this one and leave here with a medal.” – Rappler.com