After the loss against Lithuania in FIBA World Cup qualifiers, Montenegro's trio – Kendrick Perry, Marko Simonovic, and head coach Bosko Radovic shared their thoughts on the upcoming EuroBasket and areas they still need to improve.

Credit: FIBA
Credit FIBA

Montenegro (5-3) concluded its preparation for the upcoming EuroBasket 2022 with a loss against Group K leaders Lithuania (8-1) in FIBA World Cup 2023 Qualifiers. Now, Montenegrins hope to show their best version in the European championship.

Player of the Game
Domantas  Sabonis
EFF
20
Domantas Sabonis
Points 15
Accuracy 6-8
Rebounds 8
Assists 7

Montenegro stayed close in the first half, trailing by only 3 points (36-39). However, the visitors lost the third quarter 15-32 and didn't manage to make a comeback against one of EuroBasket favorites.

Montenegro national team coach Bosko Radovic admitted that the third quarter was the key tonight.

"Congratulations to Lithuania. They beat us, they were a better team," Radovic said. "We played well for 20 minutes but disappeared in the third quarter, which was the key of the game. They played third quarter without a single mistake, we didn't stop [their] transition offense."

"We played a tough game two days ago, and after that, we had a long trip. As I said, congratulations to Lithuania," added Montenegro's head coach.

Meanwhile, Montenegrin and Chicago Bulls forward Marko Simonovic agreed with the coach, adding that there's still room for improvement.

"I think we played really well in the first half, just like we planned before the game, but in the second half, we didn't play so good," Simonovic said. "They're a tough team, they got two really experienced NBA players, it's not easy to play against them, especially physically."

"We need to respond and play the way we did in the first half. We will watch the video, and we'll do better, for sure. With EuroBasket coming, we want to play better," Simonovic added.

However, Montenegro's top scorer Kendrick Perry, who finished the game with 21 points (4/6 2PT, 4/7 3PT, 1/1 FT), mentioned that his team can take away at least a few things from such a game.

Kendrick Perry

Kendrick  Perry
Position: PG
Age: 29
Height: 183 cm
Weight: 82 kg
Birth place: Florida, United States of America

"With a strong opponent like Lithuania, we saw how physical it can be," Perry told BasketNews after the game. "Obviously, rebounding was a major factor, which made a difference in the game."

"Moving forward, we have to be more physically and mentally tougher. Especially starting the second half. It starts with me being a leader and a point guard. I think we showed signs of what we can be, especially in the first half. Still, we have to take it day-by-day, continue to learn, and continue to make adjustments," Perry added.

In the decisive third quarter, Montenegro allowed 32 points. After being asked what adjustments need to be made to avoid such bad moments during the EuroBasket, head coach Radovic had a clear answer.

"We just need to run," Radovic said. "Our transition and one-on-one defense in the third quarter were terrible. It's one of the things we need to do better. Especially with teams like Lithuania, we must run to defense to stop their transition offense. Two quarters we played close to them, but the third quarter was horrible."

For Perry himself, that third quarter was also far from spectacular. After finishing the first half with 13 points, the naturalized American guard went scoreless in the third period, improving his points tally only in the fourth quarter, when the outcome of the game was basically decided.

"Physicality kinda got to us," Perry said. "We were missing some pretty easy shots, and we allowed it to affect us defensively and on the glass. And with a team like Lithuania – they're athletic, they're big, they're strong. You can't give them multiple opportunities."

"You give them an offensive rebound, they hit a three, and the whole momentum is shifted. As I said, moving forward, we'll be better. We'll be more sound physically, a little bit more sound mentally, and we'll take it from there," Perry continued.

In the upcoming EuroBasket, Montenegro will compete in Group A alongside Spain, Turkey, Georgia, Bulgaria, and Belgium.

Spain is already missing many players, Sergio Llull being the latest loss, while Georgia lost its star Tornike Shengelia due to a shoulder injury. Knowing these circumstances, is it fair to call Montenegro under the radar team, which can set some surprises?

"I think so," Perry said. "We can't really get caught up in what other teams are doing. For us, it's a matter of what we can control, which is our attitude, effort, approach day in and day out."

"But who knows. Once you throw that ball up there, it takes one team to score more than the other. We might be labeled as underdogs, but I like our chances with anybody," added Montenegro's point guard.

Meanwhile, Simonovic was a little bit more cautious, focusing solely on his team without making any predictions or showing expectations before the tournament.

"We just need to play well. Every team is experienced. Even if some of the teams don't have one or two players, it doesn't mean they will start to play badly," the 22-year-old said. "We need to prepare for the games in the best way possible and focus on every match. It doesn't matter which team we play, and we'll need to focus so we could be what we want to be on the court."

Montenegro will begin their journey in the EuroBasket on Thursday, September 1, and face one of the Group A favorites, Turkey.

Highlights

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Lithuania
Montenegro
49%
33/68
Field goals
44%
25/57
45
Rebounds
29
24
Assists
15
5
Steals
6
3
Blocks
1
88
Efficiency
52

Best players

Marius  Grigonis
16 PTS
6/9 FG
0/0 FT
Kendrick  Perry
21 PTS
8/13 FG
1/1 FT
Jonas  Valančiūnas
14 REB
8 DREB
6 OREB
Marko  Simonovic
5 REB
5 DREB
0 OREB
Rokas  Jokubaitis
10 As
2 TO
26 MIN
Kendrick  Perry
4 As
2 TO
32 MIN
Domantas  Sabonis
20 EFF
75% 2P%
- 3P%
Kendrick  Perry
17 EFF
67% 2P%
57% 3P%