Before this Friday, Team USA had swept by their first three-group stage matches of the FIBA World Cup with ease, beating all rivals by at least 27 points. However, today’s victory against Montenegro was everything but simple, as the Europeans fought until the end of the match which ended 85-73.
Even though the Americans are now through to the quarterfinal round, this test was serious, and is proof that the following match against Lituania should be just as difficult. The good thing is that regardless what happens in Sunday’s next contest, the U.S. are through to the next stage.
“These games are going to happen,” head coach Steve Kerr said after the game. “And you have to be able to fight through them. I thought our guys did a great job of that.”
Austin Reaves on big shot for Team USA vs. Montenegro: ‘Anybody on our team expects me to take and make that shot’
12 points and another W 🇺🇸⭐️
— The Laker Files (@LakerFiles) September 1, 2023
The U.S. remains unbeaten after their latest performance, which had Anthony Edwards drop in a team-high 17 points during the seconf half of the match. Austin Reaves hit 12, Jaren Jackson Jr. 11, while both Mikal Bridges and Tyrese Haliburton scored 10 each.
“It wasn’t the prettiest game,” the Pacers guard said. “But what FIBA games really are?”
As for the European rivals, they had Nikola Vucevic leading at the helm, producing 18 points and 16 rebounds for his nation. Also for Montenegro, who was leading 39-38 at half time, had Kendrick Perry drop 14 points for them.
“We played well and we made it as tough for them as we could,” said Vucevic, who has been a Chicago Bulls player for three seasons. “But in the end, quality prevailed.”
Finally by the fourth quarter, Team USA led the scoreboard 61-55. Once the final stage was underway, the Americans dropped another shot to make a seventh-point difference, which was the biggest distance the teams had in points up to that moment in the game.
After the game, the U.S. players acknowledged that hard games like these are necessary to grow stronger as a group
With 7:15 remaining at the clock, another Nikola Ivanovic three-pointer got Montenegro only two points behind the United States. It wasn’t until the last couple of minutes that Team USA finally took off and won the contest by a 12-point margin.
“It’s good for us to get one of these games,” Reaves said once the game was done. According to Vucevic, on the other hand, slow down the Americans was their “only hope” of winning.