By Josh Cohen
Sept. 7, 2017
ORLANDO — In a tune-up game of sorts after already securing a spot in the knockout round, Montenegro used this “exhibition” to sharpen up and boost its confidence.
Nikola Vucevic and his compatriots can now depart for Istanbul, Turkey with some added self-assurance after coasting past host Romania, 86-69, on Thursday.
While they weren’t nearly as locked in from start to finish as they were when they shot past the Czech Republic with a whopping 16 made 3-pointers, the Montenegrins did more than enough to finish Group C pool play with three wins.
Vucevic posted 11 points, six rebounds, three assists and two blocks in 18 minutes. He also knocked down his second 3-pointer of the tournament. Becoming a more reliable long distance threat has been a key part of the Orlando Magic big man’s offseason training.
Set to start his seventh NBA season and sixth with the Magic, Vucevic averaged 13.8 points and 7.8 rebounds during the preliminary round.
His frontcourt sidekick and a 2014 second round NBA draft pick of the Timberwolves, Bojan Dubljevic, recorded 13 points and nine rebounds in Thursday’s victory.
Head coach Bogdan Tanjevic opted to rest some of Montenegro’s top players, including American-born Tyrese Rice and Marko Todorovic.
Montenegro is in the Round of 16 for the first time in EuroBasket since joining FIBA as an independent nation in 2006. It will face Latvia, which finished second in Group D, in Sunday’s win-or-go-home contest. The Latvians are led by New York Knicks star Kristaps Porzingis, who has erupted for 28 points twice and 27 in another game so far in this competition.