After two games at the FIBA World Cup in Spain, a pattern is emerging.
You can beat the United States inside. You can crash the glass, out-rebound them 34-32, and force them to live on long bombs from the likes of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, who only had 9 and 6 points respectively on 5 of 18 shooting combined.
But, as Turkey found out, you can’t keep up with them for 40 minutes.
The US simply has too much depth and athleticism.
They looked like they could lose to Turkey, the team they beat in the 2010 final in Istanbul. Derrick Rose and DeMar DeRozan both had only 2 points the entire game, and Rudy Gay didn’t score at all. The US looked stunned at half-time, trailing 40-35.
The US blitzed them to start the second, and Turkey responded by raining threes. Cenk Akyol, 12 points, Sinan Guler, 9, Emir Preldzic, 9, Oguz Savas, 9, and Ender Arslan, 8, led a balanced Turkish attack.
But Turkey ran out of gas, as everybody does against the relentless US pressure. Fatigued, they started missing shots short, and that made them tentative. Panting and sweating in the humid Bilbao arena, they couldn’t focus enough to secure the ball, and the US pounced, notching 17 steals for the game.
The US outscored them 32-17 in the fourth quarter to win 98-77. Suddenly, a tight game was another blow out. The US won the turn-over battle 28-12, and had 30 points off it.
Much of the fourth quarter was lob city for Kenneth Faried and Anthony Davis, who nearly had three dunks in three plays.
“We happened to go out there and grind out a win,” said Faried. “We have to buy into what Coach K says. We can’t just walk out there and win because we’re the USA.”
Coach Mike Krzyzewski said Faried, 22 points, and Davis — with 19 in the second half on 8 of 11 shooting — played at an “exceptionally high level” in the second half, after the team’s poor first half.
He said Turkish center Omer Asik, who had 8 rebounds, 3 blocks and 6 points, protected the basket well in the first half. “We didn’t have good player movement,” Coach K said. “We were settling for jump-shots instead of driving the ball.”
He said the team talked at half-time about “the fact that we all know we didn’t play well.” They “went through steps” on how to counter that. “Guys did things on their own and we didn’t even tell them.”
Coach K said his team played hard in the third quarter, but Turkey responded with an “incredible number” of threes. “The tempo in the third quarter is what we wanted, but they countered with 4 or 5 threes.”
“Turkey is so good. They had a poor game yesterday, and they responded today,” he said. “That second response by us showed me that my team is very good and really wanted it. You don’t find out about those things until you’re put in game situations like this.”
“The lesson for our team is that you can’t take things for granted, especially when you’re playing teams as talented as Turkey.”
((words and images copyright Christopher Johnson Globalite Media. All rights reserved.))