Fiba World Cup: Austin Reaves, Team USA dig deeper vs Montenegro | Inquirer Sports

Fiba World Cup: Austin Reaves, Team USA dig deeper vs Montenegro

By: - Online Sports Editor / @CFColinaINQ
/ 06:20 PM September 02, 2023

Team USA's Austin Reaves reacts after a clutch three in their Fiba World Cup second round game against Montenegro

Team USA’s Austin Reaves reacts after a clutch three in their Fiba World Cup second round game against Montenegro. –FIBA BASKETBALL

MANILA, Philippines–Austin Reaves has made at least one three-pointer in each of Team USA’s games in Manila for the Fiba World Cup.

But it was only until Friday that his triple made all the difference with Team USA finally getting its first real test in this year’s global meet against the Nikola Vucevic-led Montenegro in the second round.

The Americans were up by just four, 72-68, with 2:44 left when Reaves knocked down the three from the right wing–which turned out to be his only field goal of the day–en route to the 85-73 win that secured their spot in the quarterfinals next week.


“I mean, obviously, a big shot. It’s one of those plays that if it goes in, it looks good. If it doesn’t, you know, everybody’s looking at me sideways,” Reaves told reporters at the mixed zone.

The collection of young NBA stars had to dig deep down the stretch to fend off a tough Montenegro side, a stark contrast to their first three games where they quickly erased their sluggish starts before blowing the game wide open in the second half. They won all their three games in the first round by an average of 34.3 points.

“We made big plays down the stretch, and it was good for us to get one of these games and kick in tight position so we know how to handle and play under that adversity, so it was a good team win,” Reaves, who had 12 points on 9 of 11 free throws.


Reaves and Team USA couldn’t run the floor like they used to against Vucevic and Montenegro, which used its big front line to the hilt and managed to slow the game down.

“They’re a tricky team to play against. They’re really trying to muck up the game and trying to slow it down, make it low possession. And that’s kind of the opposite of what we want to do, so we had to figure it out the second half,” Reaves said.

Team USA's Austin Reaves Anthony Edwards

Team USA’s Austin Reaves (R) hugs Anthony Edwards (L) after their victory during the FIBA Basketball World Cup group J match between USA and Montenegro at Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay, Metro Manila on September 1, 2023. (Photo by JAM STA ROSA / AFP)

It was not unusual to see Team USA stare at a deficit in the opening quarter in this World Cup as it also trailed the Montenegrins, 11-4, a little over three minutes into the game.

But while USA would usually just flip the switch by the second quarter and run with it, it couldn’t do the same against Montenegro which headed to intermission with the 38-37 lead off a Marko Simonvic slam with 0.2 seconds left.

“They did a good job. Their coach did a really good job even with substitutions and after the free throws and not being able to let us get out and go. So shout out to them, they are really good ballclub. And often, it was frustrating,” Reaves said.

Anthony Edwards, widely considered the Americans’ main man in this roster, came out firing with 17 points in the second half to put them in the driver’s seat–but only barely.

USA was ahead by just two, 64-62, with over seven minutes before Edwards scored five straight points that put some separation between the Americans and the Montenegrins.

But with Montenegro punishing the USA on the offensive boards all game long, Vucevic and Bojan Dublevic kept their team close.

That was until Reaves’ clutch three, followed up by back-to-back buckets from Jaren Jackson Jr. and Mikal Bridges that basically put the game away and ensured Team USA’s passage into the knockout phase.

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“We knew going into the game that this is what it was going to be like. If in any sport, you could go play the way you want to play every game–you would love but it’s just not really realistic,” Reaves said.

“It was good for us to get this under our belt and be able to react in-game to them kind of mucking the game up. So we thought we did really good with that.”

Team USA faces an even tougher test against Lithuania, the other quarterfinal-bound team which is also undefeated so far in the tournament, on Sunday to cap off the second round of action.

TAGS: Austin Reaves, Fiba World Cup, Team USA

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