The very first senior meeting between the USA and Montenegro went in favor of the Americans. It was a very close FIBA World Cup battle between the two sides on September 1, 2023, as the Vucevic-lead Montenegro side were up 37-38 at the end of the first half.
The first half display was an unconvincing one for Team USA, as the second unit, composed of Reaves, Banchero, Portis, Ingram and Haliburton managed to keep the team within striking distance. Utah Jazz center Walker Kessler was called upon very early in the game to bring size in the paint, as Steve Kerr saw how the Montenegrin offense bullied their way in the paint.
The flood gates opened up in the second half, as TCL Player of the Game Anthony Edwards lead the US to victory, despite only scoring 2 points in the first half, he ended the game with 17 points, 3 rebounds and 1 assist. The third quarter spurt was also lead by floor general Tyrese Haliburton, whose on-the-ball wizardry helped create chances for the US-side, he finished the game with 10 points, 2 rebounds, 6 assists and 2 steals.
The stubborn Montenegro side kept it real close but with 2:44 left in the game, Austin Reaves knocked down a three-pointer which was very deflating for their opponents, as Team USA was able to get a 7-point lead at that stage of the game. Reaves ended up with 12 points, 9 of which all came from the free-throw line.
Mikal Bridges quietly contributed and did a lot of the small things in his 24 minutes on the floor, as he finished with 10 points, 2 rebounds and 2 steals.
Former New York Knicks Head Coach Jeff Van Gundy, Utah Jazz Head Coach Will Hardy and New Orleans Head Coach Willie Green were new faces that were present during Team USA’s practice session ahead of the Montenegro game.
Team USA will try to go 5-0 in the 2023 FIBA World Cup this Sunday, in the late tip-off against Lithuania, as the quest to lift the Naismith Trophy for the 6th time continues.
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