Grit and Grind: Team USA’s Edgy Victory Over Montenegro in FIBA World Cup Second-Round Match

Team USA beats Montenegro 85-73 in FIBA World Cup.

Team USA narrowly emerged as the victor in the second round of the Group Phase against Montenegro. This happened on a thrilling Friday at the Mall of Asia Arena in Manila. Final scores? 85-73. But the numbers don’t tell the whole story. It was a closely contested game that sent both fans and critics on an emotional roller coaster.

With this win, the U.S. also booked a spot in the quarterfinals, thanks to Lithuania’s victory over Greece the same day. Below, we delve into different dimensions of the match, picking apart the nuances that played a significant role in shaping the outcome.

The Rocky Start

Battling through a sluggish opening, Team USA initially struggled to find their rhythm against a tenacious Montenegro team in the FIBA World Cup.

Team USA, known for its dominant starts, got a reality check early in the match. They trailed Montenegro 11-4 just four minutes into the game. Compare this to the Americans’ previous matches where they were demolishing their opponents by an average of 34.3 points.

Stumbling Blocks: The First Half Stats

  • Field Goal Accuracy: 35%
  • Three-Point Shots: 1 out of 9
  • Rebounds: 17 (outrebounded by Montenegro’s 28)

What Went Wrong

  • Poor Shooting: Only 35% success rate from the field.
  • Rebounding: Montenegro dominated the boards 28-17.
  • Turnovers: Team USA managed to score only nine points off Montenegro’s 12 turnovers.

The question that loomed was, could Team USA shake off these sluggish beginnings? Because as the competition gets stiffer, these slow starts will not be easy to recover from.

“Facing adversity for the first time at the World Cup, the Americans responded with a better showing in the second half but did not have a signature run to take control of the game for good until the closing minutes.”

Endgame Strategy

As the clock ticked down in the fourth quarter, Team USA’s tactical decisions proved pivotal in sealing their 85-73 victory over Montenegro.

The Closing Lineup Puzzle

The change in the starting lineup had been a point of debate, especially after coach Steve Kerr replaced Brandon Ingram with Josh Hart. But what was perhaps more critical was the decision about the lineup that would close the game in crucial moments.

In the match’s dying moments, Kerr decided to go with Edwards, Haliburton, Reaves, Mikal Bridges, and Jaren Jackson Jr. And they didn’t disappoint.

Key Moments in the Final Quarter

  • Anthony Edwards’ step-back 3-pointer stretched the lead to seven.
  • Montenegro fought back, reducing the lead to 72-68.
  • Austin Reaves and Jaren Jackson Jr. took charge, sealing the win.

“Edwards delivered immediately, knocking down a step-back 3-pointer to push the U.S. advantage to seven.”

The Rise of Edwards

Emerging as the catalyst for Team USA’s offense, Anthony Edwards shook off a slow start to score all of his 17 points in the second half, steering his team to victory.

Anthony Edwards stole the show in the second half. From a scoreless first half to 17 points in the second, his performance was nothing short of spectacular.

Edwards’ Stats:

  • 17 points
  • 7-of-16 field goals
  • 1-of-5 three-pointers
  • 2-of-2 free throws
  • 3 rebounds and 2 steals in 27 minutes

Edwards proved that he could shake off a slow start and lead his team to victory when needed the most.

Team USA bench players watching the action intensely.

A Vulnerable Underbelly

One glaring weakness of Team USA was its lack of size and muscle in rebounding. This was highlighted as Montenegro outrebounded them 49-31 and had a 22-3 advantage in second-chance points.

Rebounding Disparities:

MetricTeam USAMontenegro
Overall Rebounds3149
Offensive Rebounds823
Second-Chance Points322

This glaring disparity might be a red flag for the Americans as they proceed further into the tournament.

Salvaging Through Speed

Team USA had a tough time matching their earlier offensive prowess. They scored the fewest points in this match since the tournament’s beginning. However, they managed to salvage the situation by dominating in fast-break points, outscoring Montenegro 23-2 in this department.

Offensive Dips:

  • Overall shooting percentage dropped to 47.6%
  • 3-point range percentage fell to 26%
  • Free throws at a 67% completion rate

But despite the slump in these numbers, the U.S. team’s agility and speed in converting defense into offense were instrumental in giving them the much-needed edge.

Final Takeaways and What Lies Ahead

As the final buzzer sounded and Team USA celebrated their hard-earned 85-73 victory over Montenegro, several insights emerged that could be pivotal for the team’s future in the tournament. From the initial struggle to find their footing to the late-game heroics that sealed the win, the game was a multifaceted lesson for the American squad.

Anthony Edwards’ second-half surge illuminated his importance as the team’s offensive lynchpin, while Tyrese Haliburton and Austin Reaves proved their worth off the bench. However, the team’s rebounding deficiencies, particularly on the offensive glass, could be a point of concern as they advance to face stiffer competition.

Notably, the team’s fast-break dominance continued to be a bright spot, providing a different avenue for scoring when their shooting faltered. Coach Steve Kerr’s endgame strategy, especially his lineup choices during crunch time, displayed a calculated approach that bodes well for upcoming, higher-stakes matchups.

While the win secures Team USA’s path to the quarterfinals, it also serves as a warning. The competition is only going to get tougher from here, and the team must address its weaknesses while capitalizing on its strengths. With Lithuania up next, Team USA has some serious prep work to do, but if this game against Montenegro is any indication, they’re up for the challenge.

General Sport Observer Marc Defaou
reviewed by: Marc Defaou (Sport Expert)

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