2010 FIBA Worlds: Finals Preview & Semifinals Analysis
Gold Medal Game Preview: Team USA (8-0) vs. Turkey (8-0)
A battle of two undefeated squads who happened to be the best teams in group play. Team USA has not been to the Worlds final since 1994, the last time they grabbed gold. This is Turkey's first time in the Gold Medal game and they will have the luxury of playing in front of their home crowd. You can watch the game on ESPN or ESPN3.com at 2:30 EST.
Turkey might be the team that Team USA wanted to see least. Turkey is playing great ball on both ends of the floor, they have great size that's mobile and they will have a raucous crowd behind them. But Team USA does have the trump card in Kevin Durant.
Right now, Turkey is leading the tournament in FG pct. with 51%, slightly better than Team USA (50.4%). Also, no team stroked the long ball better--Turkey's shooting 43% from 3pt. range. Ersan Ilyasova, Hedo Turkgolu, Ender Arslan, Kerem Tunceri and Omer Onan need to be respected from deep.
Turkey's biggest weakness has to be at the FT line, where they were the worst in the tourney at 59.7%. Those numbers are definitely skewed by Omer Asik's atrocious 15-for-41 FT shooting. But even if you take Asik's numbers out of the mix, Turkey is shooting only 66% at the FT line. Only Tunceri is shooting over 75%.
A big part of Team USA's success has been because of turnovers forced from aggressive ball pressure. But can they do that against Turkey? Turkey takes very good care of the ball, averaging only 11.4 TOpg.
PG Kerem Tunceri is a very steady ball-handler who, in general, rarely makes mistakes (averaging only one TOpg in the Worlds). Also, you will see Hedo handle the ball a lot and he knows what to expect from NBA-level defenders.
Have to believe Turkey will go more zone vs. Team USA than they did vs. Serbia. Turkey's 2-1-2 zone has been impressive throughout the Worlds and might be the best zone in the tourney. Their length plus their overall activity makes for a rough day for the opposition.
What's great about the zone is that they can clog the painted area, but still contest on the perimeter because of their length and the shorter 3pt. line. Turkey gets great activity from its guards at the top of the zone, who funnel ball-handlers to the sides.
Turkey might consider condensing their zone vs. Team USA. Turkey usually likes to stretch their guards out, but might be better served bringing them closer to the painted area. Make Team USA beat you over the top of the zone, though the U.S. has been up to the task with 39.3% 3-point FG pct in the tourney. If they make their jumpers, that's how you go down.
When they go man, imagine they will give Ilyasova first crack at Durant. Ilyasova does have the physical dimensions to possibly bother Durant as well as you could ask. Hedo might get some time on Durant as well. I understand these guys aren't ideal, but at least these guys are 6-9 and mobile.
It will be interesting to see how Team USA matches up on Hedo & Ilyasova. I would go with Iggy on Hedo since they run him up high and put him in a lot of pick/roll. Durant will likely crowd Ilyasova and Kevin needs to keep a body on Ersan when the shot goes up.
Omer Asik and Semih Erden are a nice one-two punch at center that could give the U.S. some problems (Hopefully, Asik can recover from his head injury in time for the final). We'll see if Turkey goes twin towers to try to force Team USA's hand. You might see a little more Tyson Chandler in the final. Don't be surprised to see Turkey go with a super-sized lineup with Hedo at the 2.
Asik does most of his damage rolling to the rim or moving to open spots. He's a good all-around defender and dangerous on the offensive glass. Team USA might need to adopt the edict of hacking Asik anytime he looks like he has an easy score. Turkey might have to bench Asik in the 4th if the game is close.
Reserve center Erden gives Turkey more ammo on the frontline. Has good passing skills and a very good handle for a big. Likes to drive left and finish with his left hand. Has good footwork to get into good scoring opportunities, but doesn't finish his moves with any consistency.
You might see a few minutes of C Oguz Savas as well. Veteran forward Kerem Gonlum is an active athlete off the bench, who Turkey will post-up some.
Just hope Turkey decides less Gonlum in the post, and more Erden in the post. Turkey should run some offense thru Erden on the block, where he's a terrific passer. He's a pretty big dude who could give Lamar Odom issues.
Turkey has a tremendous opportunity to take home the Gold. And it would not be a major upset if they won. I just can't pick against Kevin Durant right now. But if Durant has a off-shooting night, Team USA could be in a world of hurt.
Turkey 83, Serbia 82
Now this game is a keeper on the DVR. Kerem Tunceri's broken play lay-in with 0.5 on the clock gave Turkey the win in a classic FIBA contest. Tunceri's game-winning lay-in was set into motion by a Hedo Turkoglu miscue.
Hedo appeared to mishandle the ball but it squirted to Tunceri and he drove past his defender for an uncontested lay-in. It looked like the Serbian defense was caught out of position after Hedo lost the ball. I would say Hedo had the most fortuitous fumble in Turkish basketball history.
Serbia got the ball at half-court with 0.5 left. Novica Velickovic got free near the basket on a precisely-executed lob play but Semih Erden got just a piece of Velickovic's shot to save the win (Velickovic's shot appeared short even if Erden had missed it).
This game had an intense atmosphere with great back-and-forth action. Turkey would make a little run to get within a few points and Serbia would always respond with a little run of its own to quell the momentum. But Turkey finally grabbed the lead late in the 4th after another big shot by Tunceri.
This game reminded me of the 2007 EuroBasket semifinal between Spain and Greece. That game had a similar level of intensity with two high-level teams playing in front of a raucous home crowd in Spain. Saturday's game was very physical, which was evident from the 52 fouls called (many more could have been called).
What would a superb FIBA game be without a little controversy? Omer Asik got fouled at the rim with 1:20 left and Turkey up 78-77. Asik had a delayed reaction after the whistle and fell to his knees. It did look like he took a shot to face, but it did not look severe. It was obvious what was going on right away, if you were aware of Asik's FT history. The refs allowed Turkey's Ender Arslan to take Asik FTs and Arslan hit one of two.
Another questionable call involving Asik getting fouled happened down the stretch. Asik was fouled on a made bucket with four minutes left that was ruled an intentional foul. The defender did wrap Asik up and according to the letter of the law, it was an intentional foul. But you wish the refs would show a little more discretion as they could have blown their whistles plenty of other times. I'm sure there are some bitter fans in Serbia today.
Turkey did not go with a heavy diet of zone like they have in previous games. Thought Serbia attacked the zone well when they faced it, particularly Teodosic. Serbia's ball movement was stellar throughout the game, not to mention their quality spacing was, too.
Both teams shot their long range attempts well--Serbia was 41% on 3pts., Turkey was 39%. Turkey committed four fewer TOs than Serbia but they hurt themselves by shooting 60.6% from the FT line.
PG Kerem Tunceri was Turkey's savior and MVP today. And he did most of his damage in the last five minutes of the 4th by scoring 10 of his 12 pts in that span. Tunceri drilled two isolation 3-pointers in the last half of the 4th, including an ONIONS!-worthy 3-pointer to give Turkey a 76-75 lead with 3:30 left.
Also, Tunceri added a blow-by drive past Teodosic to cut Serbia's lead to two points. Later, Tunceri drove past his defender (sans screen) to feed Erden for a dunk to put Turkey up 81-80 with 0:15 left. Tunceri's usual defensive tenacity was on display all game, leading to four steals.
Give Turkey credit for being able to pull this game out without much help from Ersan Ilyasova. Ersan (6 pts, 4 rebs, 5 fouls) could never get into the flow of the game and appeared to be drifting back on his jumpers all game.
Hedo had an alright day with some tough shots throughout the contest (16 pts, 3-for-7 3PA). Hedo started off well and also buried two big isolation 3-pointers in the 2nd half. But Hedo did throw up a couple bad shots late and his 1-for-4 FT shooting didn't help.
Besides the theatrics, Omer Asik had a decent showing with 5 pts, 7 rebs & 2 blks in 18 minutes. Asik missed a few chippies but was tough on the glass, especially the offensive glass, and made some nice defensive plays. Asik had a big put-back that drew an intentional foul that Turkey turned into two more points on the ensuing possession. But maybe his best work came when he accentuated the foul.
Turkey got good minutes from its other center, Semih Erden (9 pts, 2 assts in 21 mins). Erden's deft passing skills were on display with Semih finding guys out of the post. Erden also had the big dunk late and the big block at the buzzer.
SG Omer Onan pitched in with with 14 pts, 4 rebs and aggressive defense. Basically, reserve PG Ender Arslan (12 pts) was in the game strictly to hit clutch shots. All of Arslan's three 3-point makes came at crucial junctures that kept Serbia from pulling away.
The amount of points Milos Teodosic (13 pts, 11 assts, 6 rebs, 1 TOs) manufactured for Serbia was absurd. He was responsible for many more points than his recorded assists, as his playmaking led to many drawn fouls for his teammates, especially Krstic.
Showed off his quick release on a couple pull-up 3-pointers off of ball screens. Milos was a maestro running pick/rolls, often changing speeds to great effect and spraying perfect passes all over. He set up Velickovic's go-ahead basket with 4 secs left thanks to a great hesitation move that froze his defender (he had the hockey assist on that play).
Most of Nened Krstic's points (15 pts, 7 rebs) came via Teodosic's creativity. Nenad scored on three hooks coming off of rolls and he was adept at drawing fouls (7-for-10 FTA) once again. Most of these opportunities were set up by Teodosic, though Krstic drew some fouls on offensive rebounds (3) as well.
Anytime Serbia needed a big shot to stem a Turkish rally, SF Marko Keselj usually answered with a clutch 3-point jumper. The athletic Keselj came up with couple key offensive rebounds, including a soaring O-board with 30 secs remaining that drew a foul and allowed Marko to give Serbia a temporary lead of 80-79 at the FT line.
Serbian forward Dusan Savanovic displayed some of the creative shot-making he's known for with a few nifty runners and knocked down two 3-pointers on his way to 15 pts. His crafty mid-range game was a nice variation for Serbia's offense in the tourney.
Coach Dusan Ivkovic did another fantastic job getting his team to compete every game. They were tough defensively like they were last year and Ivkovic opened up the offense to great effect this summer. Serbia is back in the upper echelon of FIBA ball after a rough patch in the mid-2000s. This team is relatively young and the pool of talent they can choose from is deep. They should be in the medal hunt for years to come.
USA 89, Lithuania 74
Another game where Team USA wasn't dominant but set the tone with its chaotic defensive energy. And when the offense would bog down, it was Kevin Durant to the rescue. Durant poured in 38 pts on 14-for-25 FG overall, mostly on an array of jumpers.
Lithuania would often make mini-runs to get in the range of 10-12 pts and Team USA would always respond with a few plays to stave off the rallies. Lithuania stuck around in the 2nd half to make things sort of interesting, but Team USA was never seriously threatened.
Team USA forced 14 TOs, most coming on 10 steals. Lithuania was held to only 38.6% from the field, but Team USA did not shut down the opponent's 3-point line like they normally do--Lithuania shot 39% from 3pt. land.
Once again Lamar Odom and Andre Iguodala ably gave supplement support to Durant with rebounds, activity and all-around defense. Odom added a few nifty moves around the rim to score 13 points. Lamar was a bull on the boards again (10 rebs) and changed a bunch of shots (3 blks). Iggy (9 pts, 4 rebs, 4 stls) was a defensive menace thanks to his quick hands and he gave Linas Kleiza major issues.
While Chauncey Billups and Derrick Rose were of little help today (combined for 3 points on 1-of-12 shooting), Russell Westbrook gave the US backcourt a lift with his activity. Westbrook flew at the basket for 12 points and he went way out of his area to snatch offensive rebounds (4).
Martynas Pocius continued his strong Worlds play with 13 pts, 7 rebs & 2 stls. Pocius banged home three 3-pointers, two off of quick-dribble pull-ups. If Pocius has another strong season with his club team (Zalgiris), he might garner a look from NBA squads.
This was not the game for Linas Kleiza to bring very little to the table. Kleiza was ineffective with 4 pts (1-for-11 FG), 4 TOs (had the ball stripped multiple times), and seemed to be anxious playing against NBAers, which is odd.
Veteran center Robertas Javtokas was tough for Team USA to stop on rolls and even added a few hooks shots to the mix. The shark-tatted bruiser led Lithuania with 15 pts & 9 rebs (4 off).
Lithuania has to feel great about its 2010 Worlds campaign. This was supposed to be a rebuilding year but they took advantage of a weak group and favorable playoff draw. Coach Kemzura did one of the finer jobs in the Worlds by taking a similar group of players to those who won one game at EuroBasket last summer and brought them to the semis. They are hosting next summer's EuroBasket, and it should be a fun time, considering it's being held in the best pound-for-pound country for basketball.