By Josh Cohen
Sept. 4, 2017
ORLANDO — It’s only the fifth day of EuroBasket 2017 and already there have been several incredible individual performances, fantastic finishes and remarkable team resilience.
Finland and Israel overcome seemingly unsurmountable late-game deficits on Sunday to pull off stunning victories in front of their home supporters. The tournament’s NBA stars have been, as expected, sensational across the board and we’ve witnessed several underdogs excel.
You can add Monday’s Croatia vs. Montenegro matchup to the list of tournament dandies. American-born Tyrese Rice scored eight straight points down the stretch to trim Montenegro’s deficit to one with just under a minute remaining.
However, Dario Saric helped his country avoid the upset by connecting on a crucial layup with 40 seconds left as Croatia held off Montenegro for a 76-72 win in Cluj Napoca, Romania.
Montenegro, which trailed by as many as 15 in the first quarter, battled back behind staunch defense and some clutch shooting from Rice in the game’s final stages. Nikola Ivanovic missed a potential game-tying 3-pointer with 18 seconds left.
Rice finished with 22 points and Bojan Dubljevic had a monster performance with 17 points and 11 rebounds.
Nikola Vucevic, who posted 12 points and five rebounds, came on strong in the second half. He particularly played well defensively in the final few minutes (stripped ball away from Croatians couple of times and had a key deflection).
Bojan Bogdanovic came out scorching hot in the opening few minutes for Croatia, which shot 58 percent from the field in the first quarter and made 11 3-pointers throughout the game. He tallied 23 points and six rebounds and Saric scored 14 points.
Vucevic’s Orlando Magic teammate, Mario Hezonja, who played for his home nation in the Summer Olympics last year in Rio, is not participating in this competition.
Montenegro’s spirit and resolve shown against an undefeated and experienced Croatian team is a good sign as it now turns its attention to the Czech Republic. The top four teams in each of the four groups advance to the knockout round. Currently, Montenegro sits in third place in Group C.