Three days into the group stage of the 2023 FIBA World Cup, and things have been going impeccably well for the participating members of the Chicago Bulls. Nikola Vucevic has led Montenegro to just their second World Cup appearance while Carlik Jones is putting South Sudan on the map with his electric play.
Vucevic in particular has been well worth the watch, as he kicked things off with a potentially make-or-break game against a higher-ranked Mexico team. Vooch looked like his All-Star self once again and put Montenegro on his back with 27 points, 10 rebounds, and 2 blocks en route to an explosive 20-point victory.
He carried that momentum into today’s meeting with Egypt, where he led Montenegro in four different statistical categories with 16 points, 7 rebounds, 3 blocks, and 2 steals. What’s most impressive is he accomplished all this in just 22 minutes of action, conserving his energy for the group stage finale and the ensuing World Cup bracket rounds.
Montenegro would comfortably defeat Egypt 89-74, allowing the bench to get some run ahead of a crucial game against Lithuania on Monday.
Bulls All-Star Nikola Vucevic continues to impress in the 2023 FIBA World Cup for his home country of Montenegro.
Former Chicago Bulls second-round pick and All-Summer League nominee Marko Simonovic is also representing Montenegro this year, and nothing but kind words to share for the veteran big man. “He’s like a big brother to me. He helped me a lot when I arrived in Chicago,” said Simonovic, “We have great connections on and off the court”.
Meanwhile, Carlik Jones was incredible in his debut game for South Sudan. He joins NBA talent Wenyen Gabriel and Majok Deng (the cousin of Luol Deng) for South Sudan’s first-ever FIBA World Cup. Jones was everywhere on the court, posting a ridiculous 35 points, 11 assists, 6 rebounds, and 4 steals against Puerto Rico. Unfortunately, his efforts would not be rewarded with a victory, as Puerto Rico just barely edged them out in the end.
South Sudan’s next game will take place against China tomorrow, on August 28.
This win for Montenegro means they’re in control of their own fate in Group D. Lithuania is currently playing Mexico, and assuming they win, they’ll play Montenegro on Monday for the first seed from Group D. Winning that game would be huge, as playing the second-seeded team from Group C (likely either Greece or New Zealand) would be far more preferable than the alternative…
… Which is playing Team USA in the first round, a game that would almost certainly be a death sentence for Vucevic in this year’s World Cup. That’s why beating the higher-ranked Lithuania will be vitally important toward keeping their World Cup dreams alive for now. Vucevic has taken care of business thus far, but we’ll see if he can get the job done very soon.