Team USA entered its second outing in Bilbao on the back of a crushing win over Finland. Turkey were in mood to make the road to 2-0 smooth as the 12 Giant Men brought the fight with an organised game, writes Emmet Ryan.
Well this started ominously. A Kenneth Faried dunk followed by a big block by Anthony Davis showed the USA’s intentions early. Omer Asik however was of the mood to bring it to his New Orleans Pelicans team-mate inside, getting some nice work done to give Turkey an early advantage. The early Turkish lead was unexpected and Twitter responded in kind by expressing shock, then Faried responded in a more practical matter by finishing off an alley-oop from Stephen Curry. This was Faried’s show early, just past the mid-way point of the quarter he blocked Baris Hersek and charged up the floor for a lay-up. Turkey however showed no signs of being intimidated by their more storied opponents and hung in their through the opening frame, with the sides level 16-16.
Kyrie Irving was eager to do more in this second outing. A drive through the lane in the first quarter signaled his intent but, like against the Finns, his opportunities to stand out were limited, in part by the towering frame of Omer Asik who floored him with a hard but fair block. Asik, while improved from his display against New Zealand, wasn’t the big leading the way for Turkey early. Instead Oguz Savas once again grabbing eyeballs as he posted up well against Davis and Faried on offence. The oft-criticised, not least by this side, Fenerbahce big man has been a real contributor for Turkey in the early going in this tournament. Despite his defensive limitations, Savas has played with intelligence through the early going. Asik however improved considerably as the half wore on, doing the job on his own end and picking up 7 boards
When the US got inside, scoring was a fait accompli but getting there was the challenge as Turkey remained organised on defence. With the offence similarly patient, Ergin Ataman’s side was dictating the pace flow of play. Ender Arslan took a hard foul from Derrick Rose as he sank a floater. Saturday was a showcase, this was well and truly a game. It was hardly haymakers at each end but Turkey were making the USA pay for the little errors that crept into their game. The rust, that was glossed over in the rout of Finland, was more evident here with travelling calls and mis-timed passes an actual issue this time around. A Cenk Akyol floater pushed Turkey into a 5 point lead, causing Coach K to call a timeout before the USA’s final possession of the half. Another error came however as Rose turned the ball over out of bounds. At the half Turkey took at 40-35 lead into the locker room.
The early going of the third quarter was always going to be huge for Turkey. Holding a lead after 20 against a US team this deep is a far different matter to holding it after 40 as Faried reminded the 2010 silver medalists with a big dunk in wide open space to put the Americans back in front. Akyol and Arslan however made a pair of threes to push Turkey back ahead and any fears of a storm from the US swinging the tide of this game quickly was averted. Davis however was heating up and made light work of Turkey’s interior D, racking up 11 points in short order in the quarter. That was enough of a boost for the USA to force its way back in front but Turkey was sticking to the plan. Savas, with a tough route inside available, showed patience and verve as he opted to defer to Sinan Guler who nailed the three. Another, this time from Kerem Tunceri, was Turkey’s fifth from as many tries in the quarter and leveled matters again and Coach K called timeout with 3.10 left in the quarter. A Curry three finally gave the United States a sliver of room at 64-59. The errors however weren’t going away, a routine steal by Curry off Cedi Osman saw the Golden State Warrior stumble out of bounds to hand Turkey back the ball. Faried however remained the hunter, blindsiding Asik for a steal under the bucket and dunk. With 10 minutes to go, the USA held a 66-60 lead.
Klay Thompson and Faried quickly made it a double-digit lead and a three by Irving effectively end the game as a contest with 8 minutes still to play. Turkey’s chance was gone and fatigue started to prove a facotr. Davis dunked home alley-oops from Thompson and Gay before tipping in another from James Harden.
Another night, another good one for Faried and Davis. This time however we saw what the duo could do when it was well and truly put up to them. In terms of the USA’s overall front court, that’s a tremendous sign but the rust remains across the roster. With a rest day tomorrow, Coach K has time to work out some of that before Tuesday’s clash with winless New Zealand.
For Turkey, though they fell off late, this was the best performance in any competition for several years, arguably since their semi-final win in 2010. Having disappointed at consecutive EuroBaskets, they put together an impressive 30 minutes against as good an opponent as they will see here in Spain. With Ukraine to come on Tuesday, they will surely be confident on the back of this display.