FIBA Basketball World Cup: USA overcomes tough test to beat Montenegro 85-73 to remain unbeaten and move to the brink of the quarterfinals.
If the Americans were waiting for a serious test at the World Cup, they can wait no more.
Facing a 26.5-point underdog in Montenegro in a second-round opener for both teams, it trailed by a point at the half, didn’t take the lead for good until midway through the third quarter, and still had a contest on its hands until the final minutes.
“Great game for us … These games are going to happen,” said U.S. coach Steve Kerr.
Anthony Edwards scored all of his team-high 17 points in the second half for the Americans (4-0), who got 12 from Austin Reaves and 11 from Jaren Jackson Jr. Mikal Bridges and Tyrese Haliburton each added 10 for the US, which didn’t pull away until late in the fourth.
Anthony Edwards was trolling the security while talking to Jackson Jr.
Ant trolling the security guard
(Via hoopjunkie_ph / h/t overtime )
— NBACentral (TheDunkCentral) August 31, 2023
Nikola Vucevic had 18 points and 15 rebounds for Montenegro, which led 39-38 at the half.
Kendrick Perry scored 14 for Montenegro (2-2).It was essentially a must-win for Montenegro, and it darn near pulled off a stunner.
“We played well, and we made it as tough for them as we could,” said Vucevic, who plays for the Chicago Bulls. “But in the end, quality prevailed.”
Montenegro wouldn’t go away. A 3-pointer by Nikola Ivanovic got the underdogs within 64-62 with 7:15 remaining, and the Americans couldn’t exhale until the final seconds — a far cry from the way the first three games of the tournament went, with points coming in bunches and the US winning every game by at least 27 points.
Montenegro had a game plan and worked it nearly to perfection: Slow the Americans down by any means necessary — “our only hope,” Vucevic said.That included well-timed substitutions, sprinting back on defense, whatever it took.
“We’ve got to get stops and rebounds so we can’t go against a set defense every time,” Edwards said. “If they set their defense, they’re going to pack the paint, load up and make us shoot.
And I shot terribly from the outside today. I don’t know what’s going on. I’ll figure it out.”
He figured it out only once from long-range Friday, but it was a big moment. Edwards’ only 3-pointer came with 6:07 left, putting the U.S. up 69-62.
It stayed a two-possession game, at least, for much of the remainder of the contest.
“A small country like Montenegro, we played tonight maybe one of the best games ever,” Montenegro Coach Bosko Radovic said. “We played such a good team.”