Team USA opens the second round of the FIBA World Cup early Friday morning, New York time, facing off vs. Montenegro and its NBA center Nikola Vucevic, the first of two scheduled contests against teams with a big who relishes physical play. On Sunday, they face Lithuania and Jonas Valančiūnas.
One criticism of the roster Grant Hill and Steve Kerr have put together is that it’s not a physical and FIBA ball is physical. The Americans’ bigs are athletic rather than physical so expect Montenegro to put the ball in Vucevic’s hand … a lot … and hope the FIBA refs let him go. The Bulls center is averaging 20.7 points, 7.0 rebounds and 2.0 blocks for his Baltic homeland. Kendrick Perry, a 6’0” point guard from Youngstown State, is Montenegro’s other scoring threat, putting up 13.0 points and 5.3 assists.
Team USA’s starting lineup has undergone a couple of changes since training camp. Anthony Edwards and Josh Hart are in, Cam Johnson and Brandon Ingram are out. Kerr has said he expects the starting lineup to be stable the rest of the way.
“I really liked the lineup shift for B.I.,” Kerr said, via ABS-CBN News. “The game was much smoother. He had five assists, there was more space, he had the ball more. I know he enjoyed it. We’ll keep doing the same thing tomorrow, we’ll start the same way as we did last night and see how that goes. But I can’t speak highly enough of B.I., just his character and the way he handled that.
Live stats can be round here.
WHO: Team USA vs. Montenegro
WHEN: 4:40 a.m. ET