MANILA, Philippines – The Americans didn’t shoot the ball well, the ball wasn’t moving as quickly from one teammate to another, and they certainly weren’t bouncing.
Going forward, their underdog opponent put together an excellent game plan and almost executed it to perfection.
But it would take little time for Montenegro to upset Team USA, and they didn’t have it.
Anthony Edwardsafter ensuring that Team USA would win the next two games, scored all 17 of his points in the second half, Austin Reeves He made a timely 3 and the Americans beat Montenegro 85-73 in a FIBA World Cup second-round game.
Edwards, who remains the team’s top scorer in the cup, overcame a goalless start of 0-of-5 in the first half, which ended with Montenegro leading 39-38.
“I felt like I let my team down in the first half,” Edwards said. “For example, I wasn’t aggressive, I stopped shooting after I went 0-for-5, so it’s things I don’t normally do. So I had to talk to myself in the locker room to be able to move forward.
The Americans, who secured a spot in the quarterfinals with Lithuania’s win over Greece on Friday, will play Lithuania at 8:40 a.m. ET on Sunday.
Edwards hit his first jumper at home at 9:25 in the third quarter and scored again on the ensuing possession. He finished the period with 10 points, clearly on his way after Stern gave himself to himself, finishing the game on 7-of-16 shooting with three rebounds and four turnovers.
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The game was still tense until there were less than three minutes remaining. Reeves, who scored 12 points overall, nailed a 3 with 2:48 remaining to take a 75-68 lead — the United States’ largest lead to that point. He gave the “ice in the veins” dance as the shot sprayed, and he wasn’t kidding. With the way Montenegro maintained the lead thanks to a massive advantage on the glass and timely baskets from the NBA All-Star team, Chicago Bulls big Nikola VucevicReeves’ shot was decisive.
“It was obviously a big shot,” Reeves said. “It’s one of those plays (where) if I go in, I look good. If it doesn’t, you know, everyone looks at me sideways.
within two minutes, Jaren Jackson JrSkyhook’s hook, Mikal Bridges’ stance, and Edwards’ 2-footer put this out of reach. Jackson, who had foul trouble in the first half, finished with 11 points but did not pull down any rebounds. Bridges scored 10 points, as he did Therese Halliburtonwho led with six assists off the bench.
It was Halliburton instead Jalen Bronson Which Team USA coach Steve Kerr was on the field in the final minutes.
“I felt like both Ty and Austin were playing great,” Kerr said. “We went back to Ant and JJ and decided to keep those guys on the ground. And it’s a good lineup. I think we have that lineup against Germany (in the exhibition season) if I’m not mistaken. So, it’s a lineup that we trust and like, and they played well and with a good rhythm they accomplished.” the mission.
Now, for the carnage.
It starts with Montenegro and Vucevic, who finished with 18 points and 16 rebounds. These are perhaps gaudy and predictable numbers. He is the only current NBA player on his team and a two-time All-Star.
What couldn’t have happened (but did) was Montenegro’s 49-31 overall advantage on the glass. Vučević’s team had 22 second chance points. He looked to use his distinct size advantage (6-foot-5 Josh Hart started at the four) and attacked in the post, giving Jackson trouble in the first quarter.
Montenegro’s only other scorer in double figures was Youngstown State graduate Kendrick Perry (14 points), but if not for a whopping 22 turnovers (Haliburton-Reeves-Hart pressure had something to do with that), he might have pulled off the biggest upset. In the history of basketball in the country.
“I knew we were going to win,” Edwards said, admitting his Wednesday guarantee crossed his mind when the game was close. “Yes sir. I knew we were going, I knew we were going to win from the start. I mean they made a lot of shots.”
Well, no, actually, Montenegro scored the same number of field goals as Edwards’ team. The Americans finished 5 of 19 shooting from 3-point range but were just 1 of 9 in the first half. They assisted on 19 of 30 field goals, but the ball got stuck in Edwards’ hands, and in the post, more than Kerr, who praised Team USA’s past ball movement, was accustomed to. They also missed 10 out of 30 foul shots, much to the chagrin of USA shooting expert and travel consultant Chip England.
“They’re a tough team to play against,” Reeves said. “They’re trying to spoil the game. They’re trying to slow it down, make it a low-possession game, and that’s the opposite of what we want to do. So we had to figure that out in the second half and made big plays down the stretch.”
“It was good for us to play one of these games and be in difficult situations so we know how to deal and play under such adversity.”
Paolo Banchero (eight points, four rebounds) played with his right hand, which is severely immobilized due to a thumb injury he suffered against Greece in the first round. Bobby Portis saw extended minutes but only made 1-of-6 shots.
The Americans now lead 4-0, and the worst they could do is finish 4-1 through two innings. If they lose to Lithuania, Team USA will win a tiebreaker over Greece due to their first round win. With its loss on Friday, Montenegro was eliminated from the tournament.
But if the United States had lost this Friday, tiebreaker chaos might have followed. And remember, Olympic qualification is at stake in the World Cup as well. Team USA must finish in the top two of all the teams from the Americas in the Cup, and at present Canada, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Brazil are still here.
So, yeah, we’d better work on those boards. And those 3s. And free throws.
“I thought Black Mountain was great,” Kerr said. “This is a really well-coached team. They had their game plan. Everybody knew their roles and they executed it. I think they got (23) offensive boards, and they tried to pound us inside. But I’m proud of our guys. Our night was not offensive.”
“We’ll look at the tape. I didn’t think we moved the ball well at all, and that’s why we got into the trouble we did. But these games are going to happen, and you’ve got to be able to fight through them, and I thought our guys did a great job of that.”
(Photo by Austin Reeves and Anthony Edwards: Stephen Gosling/NBAE via Getty Images)
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