Manila: The US got their first real test of the Basketball World Cup on Friday, and found a way to survive and remain unbeaten.
Anthony Edwards scored 17 points, Austin Reaves had 12, Jaren Jackson Jr. added 11 and the Americans overcame a halftime deficit to beat Montenegro 85-73 in the second-round opener at the World Cup for both teams. It put the US on the brink of clinching a spot in the quarterfinals.
Mikal Bridges and Tyrese Haliburton each scored 10 for the US (4-0).
Nikola Vucevic had 18 points and 15 rebounds for Montenegro, who led 39-38 at the half. Kendrick Perry scored 14 for Montenegro (2-2).
The US led 61-55 going into the fourth and tacked a point on to make it a seven-point edge — their biggest of the game to that point — early in the final quarter.
Montenegro just 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.
It was a bad first half for the US by almost all statistical measures: The Americans shot 35 per cent from the field, were just 1 for 9 from 3-point range, got outrebounded 28-17 and managed only nine points off 12 turnovers by Montenegro.
And the US misfired on opportunities as well. Consider this sequence that started with 1:10 left in the half: Walker Kessler got a dunk off a pass from Edwards, got fouled, Montenegro was whistled for a technical as well. But the US went just 1 for 3 on the ensuing free throws, and Kessler missed from layup range to end the possession.
It was a chance for a seven-point possession and the US came away with only three.