Montenegro needed a strong showing in the first three games with group favorites Serbia and Lithuania on the back end of the schedule. Two close games and a split in the win collumn put Montenegro in a precarious position against Bosnia and Herzegovina.
It seemed up by 10 points in the third quarter, Montenegro was going to put the clamps on and finish this game off. Giving their star players a rest before the challenge to come.
Bosnia had different ideas. Much different ideas. And Eurobasket, which saw a crazy Slovenia upset of Spain a day before, is always full of tight and surprising finishes.
Nemanja Gordic and Mirza Teletovic added to that lore and added to Montenegro's misery. Montenegro has some serious questions to ask itself after losing 76-70, blowing the lead and losing the fourth quarter 27-11 to fall to a disastrous 1-2 in Eurobasket.
Montenegro's guards struggled to maintain the lead as Gordic and Teletovic knifed through the defense — Gordic doing so on a jam right through the lane and Teletovic doing it one time over Nikola Vucevic. Gordic scored 17 points and grabbed six rebounds as a point guard and Teletovic scored 18 points and grabbed 11 rebounds (on 6-for-22 shooting, mind you). The two carried Bosnia through the fourth quarter.
Montenegro could not find its own heroes. Tyrese Rice scored 13 points but made only 3 of his 11 shots. Montenegro went to him time and time again down the stretch and Rice could not deliver. It gave Bosnia the opportunity to come back and bite into Montenegro's lead until it was all gone. Starting center Bojan Dubljevic led Montenegro with 16 points. But Montenegro went away from him in favor of Rice down the stretch.
Nikola Vucevic, who is reportedly fighting a stomach flu, had perhaps his best game at Eurobasket. He made only two of his six shots and scored just six points. But he was very active around the basket on both ends in his 14 minutes of play. He grabbed four rebounds and blocked three shots. His timing on tip ins is still very strong and he looked comfortable timing shooters around the basket for blocked shots.
It was a good showing for Vucevic in areas that Magic fans want to see him improve. He is not going to be flying around blocking shots, but he has shown a better knack for defending the rim and recording blocks. It seems certaint hat he will be solid when he returns to a more featured role as center with the Magic and is not just standing on the perimeter — Montenegro is not even running him in pick and rolls.
Vucevic just does not seem to be used effectively by Montenegro. Really all their bigs have not been used that effectively. The team's performance so far bears that out.
Montenegro is on the ropes.