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RJ Barrett’s monster 2nd half leads the way for Canada

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Mandatory Credit: Frank Franklin II/POOL PHOTOS-USA TODAY Sports

Greece gave Canada a scare in the first game of this FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament, but RJ Barrett saved the day.

RJ Barrett isn’t taking a vacation this summer. He’s trying to book a trip to Tokyo for the Olympic Games and he’s off to a good start. In the first game of their FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament, Barrett and Canada Basketball beat Greece 97-91.

Barrett started the game off slow as did his team. Greece led by four at halftime by knocking down their open looks from deep. Andrew Wiggins and Nickeil Alexander-Walker kept Canada within striking distance while Barrett only managed three points in the first two quarters.

But the second half was a different story. Barrett erupted for 19 points in the second half, finishing with a line of 22 points, five boards, and three assists. Not bad for his first game with Canada Basketball this summer.

Barrett did most of his damage in ways that New York Knicks fans are used to seeing. He had a few buckets in transition and made a living by slashing to the basket and finishing with his left hand. That’s his bread and butter.

Even though he was 1-for-6 from three for the game, his one make was worth watching a few times. Although Barrett was lethal from beyond the arc for the Knicks this past season (40.1%), he was mostly a catch-and-shoot guy. This step-back three is something we haven’t seen much from the lefty — yet.

RJ Barrett can be a star for Canada Basketball this summer and give another jolt to his career after his breakout sophomore season. Knicks fans will get to watch Barrett’s development for as long as Team Canada is alive this summer.

He’s motivated to follow in his father’s footsteps. Rowan Barrett is the current general manager of Canada Basketball and a member of the last team to make the Olympics in the country. Rowan was part of a team with Steve Nash that went to the 2000 Olympics when RJ was an infant.

“Anytime I can give back to my country, that’s what I try to do,” Barrett told FIBA. “It’s in my blood. I hope to play as long as I can.”

Where Canada Basketball Stands

Remember, Canada needs to beat out five other teams for a berth in the Olympics. Beating Greece all but assures Canada of a spot in the four-team tournament after group play. The top two teams from Group A advance. If they all finish 1-1, point differential is the tiebreaker.

Here is how Group A (Canada, Greece, China) looks after this game:

via FIBA
NY/NJ hoops reporter (NBA/NCAA) & sports betting writer for XL Media. Never had the makings of a varsity athlete.