Sunday, September 12, 2010

2010 FIBA Worlds: USA Defeats Turkey 81-64 To Win Gold

by Jay Aych and M. Haubs

Team USA rode its equation of Durant + Defense one more time, defeating Turkey 81-64 in Istanbul on Sunday to win its first FIBA World Championship gold medal since 1994.

Kevin Durant was a one-man wrecking crew with 28 points, mostly coming on 3-pointers (7-13 3PA). Turkey was hanging around at the half, down by 10, but Durant immediately crushed its hopes by hitting back-to-back threes to begin the 3rd. A few of his seven 3-pointers were absolute bombs and he buried some step-back 3's for good measure. KD also harassed Ersan Ilyasova into missed shots all game.

All told, Durant did nothing short of put on one of the finest individual performances in FIBA history, in averaging 33 points in the final three knockout games, while averaging 22.8 points and 6.1 rebounds in just 28 minutes per game for the tournament as a whole.

KD's shooting numbers were off the charts: 56% FG, 46% 3PT, 91% FT, for an eFG% of .654 and a True Shooting Percentage of .693.

Perhaps most remarkably, Durant was the only player who averaged double figures in points for Team USA. In the NBA era, there's never been another U.S. team with fewer than three players in double figures; the 2008 Olympic team had five players who averaged 10 or more.

The oft-asked question with this group was "How will they score points if Kevin Durant has an off night?" Fortunately, they never had to find out. What a player.

In retrospect, perhaps the perceived struggles for Team USA in early pre-tournament competition were entirely Durant's struggles. Amazingly, KD shot just 14-38, including 0-7 on threes, in the scrimmage vs. China and friendlies vs. France and Lithuania in early August, before turning it on and never looking back.


No doubt, Team USA also came out on top because of a superb defensive effort vs. Turkey's half-court offense. Team USA did not allow Turkey to get into its offense and forced the Turks up against the shot clock, or into shot clock violations, multiple times. USA's denial, constant switching, and contesting disrupted Turkey's flow.

Turkey never could build any type of consistency on the offensive end. Team USA held a Turkish team that had been shooting 51% coming into this game to 36.4% on Sunday. Turkey did not help its cause by shooting 17-for-27 (63%) at the FT line. We mentioned Turkey's FT woes in our preview--they were the worst FT shooting team in field at 59%.

It looked like many of the Turks were tentative on offense vs. the US, often hesitating on their moves. Hedo Turkoglu and Ender Arslan seemed like the only Turks who were not flustered.

For the tournament, Team USA allowed its opponents to shoot just 38.1% from the floor, and just 30.1% behind the arc. Time and again, the Americans were able to disrupt otherwise successful offenses with a combination of length, athleticism and intensity; Andre Iguodala was the primary perimeter stopper, while Lamar Odom anchored the backline as an undersized center.

On the flip side, Turkey's zone was actually effective for the most part, with the major exception of covering one man. Unfortunately for Turkey, there's not much you can do about Kevin Durant in man or zone. Team USA only shot 44% from the floor and 33% from 3-point land overall in the gold-medal game. If you take out Durant's numbers, Team USA shot 39% overall and 4-for-20 from 3pt. range.

A downside of a zone is the possibility of easier offensive rebounding opportunities and Team USA burned Turkey today with 16 offensive boards, to 23 defensive rebounds for Turkey. Team USA did a terrific job chasing down o-boards and they led to some vital second-chance points.

Turkey made a little push in the middle of 1st and looked to be building some momentum. But then Hedo kind of derailed it with an unnecessary dust-up with Tyson Chandler, and a few moments later he had go the bench with an injury. It seemed Turkey lost its mojo when Hedo had to sit.

Team USA really did not do that much damage in transition on Sunday, though they did string together back-to-back fast break buckets early in the 4th to essentially secure the win.


Indeed, Andre Iguodala and Lamar Odom once again fulfilled their roles of taut defending and relentless rebounding. Iggy (4 pts, 5 rebs, 3 assts) was a help defender deluxe as always and both Iggy (3 off. rebs) & Odom (5 off. rebs) were so good at chasing down offensive rebounds out of their area.

Defensively, Odom was stout in pick/roll and held up well in switches. Second game in a row that Lamar also gave his team an offensive jolt. Odom helped Team USA pull away early in the 4th by scoring 9 of his 15 points in a three-minute stretch. In that early-4th stretch, Odom's scores came in every variety: tip-in on missed FT, 3-pointer to beat the shot clock, mid-ranger, and a lay-in in transition. We're happy to see Odom get some FIBA redemption for the 2004 Olympic disaster--Lamar was one of the good guys on that deeply flawed squad.

Russell Westbrook's athleticism caused problems for the opposition. Russ had a sweet drive right through the zone and even knocked down two rare 3's on his way to 13 points. Also, Westbrook (3 off. rebs) joined Iggy & Odom in their assault of the offensive glass, often flying in from out of his area to get boards.

Chauncey Billups had another off-shooting day (0-for-5) and had only 2 points & 2 assists. But we thought Billups did give good effort on the defensive end relentlessly fighting through picks and picking up two steals.


Have to wonder about some of Turkey Coach Bogdan Tanjevic's coaching decisions. First off, why were there not more touches for Hedo Turkoglu? When Hedo (16 pts, 4-for-4 from 3pt. range) had the ball in his hands, good things were happening for Turkey. When Hedo came back in the 2nd quarter, the touches were inconsistent and it was no coincidence that the Turkish offense bogged down.

Obviously, Hedo in pick/roll is dangerous, but we didn't think we saw enough of it. Team USA was having some trouble with pick/rolls when Turkey would spread. Also, Turkoglu was very effective in isos today, drilling a few 3-pointers in triple-threat position. But Hedo attempted only eight shots on Sunday. Not sure why Turkey did not make a habit of milking Hedo. Ball.

Was it just a coaching decision to leave him on the bench for most of the 3rd? Or was Turkoglu resting because his knee was bothering him? Either way, it hurt Turkey's comeback chances. And to not have Hedo on the floor at the start of the 4th made little sense. Team USA went on a key 7-2 run to put the game away before Turkey could insert Hedo.

To go along with more touches for Hedo, a few more post-ups for center Semih Erden would have been nice, as opposed to post-up calls for Omer Asik or Kerem Gonlum. Semih Erden (9 pts on 4-of-5) scored around the hoop on a few drop-steps but he did mishandle a few passes. Erden passes well out of the post as well, but Tanjevic failed to utilize Erden enough.

Reserve PG Ender Arslan gave Turkey a nice lift in the 3rd and kept the 12 Giant Men hanging until the start of the 4th. Arslan knocked down two 3-pointers and set up a couple other hoops.

Ersan Ilyasova (7 pts, 9 rebs) had another rough night offensively and never looked comfortable on the floor. Part of his rough night can be blamed on Durant's defense--KD always had a hand in Ersan's face.

Still, it's a night of celebration in Turkey after a magical run to a silver medal in Istanbul. They also won silver at home at the 2001 EuroBasket, and now topped it by doing the same at the FIBA Worlds. Congratulations to the 12 Giant Men and their fans.


On the eve of the FIBA World Championship, we tabbed Spain and the U.S. as co-favorites, and we stand by the reasoning, as the two teams played an 86-85 game just one week prior to the tournament. From there, however, the two most talented teams went in opposite directions. Spain was the most underachieving team in the field, while Team USA went on a run of dominance.

Team USA silenced its doubters emphatically, winning by an average scoring margin of 24.6 points (92.8-68.2) while riding that equation of Durant + Defense to a 9-0 run through the tournament. After a scare vs. Brazil in the group stage, the U.S. was never seriously threatened in the entire knockout round.

All in all, Kevin Durant is the king of the FIBA world, and USA Basketball reigns supreme after an emphatic performance in Istanbul.


Other tournament notes:
- Hats off also to Lithuania, the best per-capita basketball country in the world, which defeated Serbia 99-88 behind 33 points from Linas Kleiza to claim the bronze medal. This nation of just 3.3 million people won a World bronze to add to its collection of three Olympic bronzes (1992, 1996, 2000) plus EuroBasket gold (2003) and bronze (2007). Since regaining independence in 1991, Lithuania has never finished lower than fourth in an Olympic men's basketball tournament. They are hosting the 2011 EuroBasket, and with their raucous fans, it should be a blast.

Lithuania's win over Spain - coming back from down 18 late in the third - really changed complexion of tournament. If that result had switched, Spain would have won Group D, and had an easier road to a semifinal matchup vs. the U.S. Spain has no one to blame but themselves - they blew it, and Lithuania seized the opportunity.

For those who would say, well, Spain didn't have Pau Gasol.... Sure. But consider that Lithuania was playing without six of its top eight players. They were the clear overachievers of the tournament, and it's a real credit to coach Kestutis Kezmura and his players.

- We're a little sad around these parts as we bid adieu to the trapezoid lane--FIBA will move to the NBA lane dimensions going forward. We agree with moving back the 3-point line (from 20.5 feet to 22.15 feet), which is also happening, but we're not liking the end of the trapezoid lane. We thought it opened up the floor for better cutting angles and forced players to have more refined post skills, as it was harder to just back your way to the rim via brute force. Also, we thought it was nice quirk to the FIBA game like the cylinder rule (note: M. Haubs hates the FIBA cylinder rule). You'll be missed, trapezoid, and let's call ourselves The Painted (Trapezoid) Area in your honor for the rest of the week. RIP, Trapezoid Lane, 1956-2010.

- P.S. Underrated winners of the day were Brazil and Argentina. Team USA's gold medal not only guaranteed a U.S. bid to the 2012 Olympics as the World Champions, but also opened up another spot for a team from the Americas - particularly coveted with the field of just 12 countries in the Olympic tournament.

On to London 2012 we go.


At 7:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Suck it, haters.

I'm wondering what the naysayers are saying now (probably they are making excuses because they can't bring themselves to admit Team USA is the world champ...but whatever) Remember some of the stereotype-driven, pathetic, hatred-filled comments against US players, the NBA and U.S. basketball in general before the WC started, on this very same blog? Remember those fools, even several Americans among them, who blasted every single thing related to U.S. basketball (so much for patriotism and wanting to support your own country) before the event started? How about the guy who said US players don't play defense (looks to me they played formidable defense). How about the fool who said this was the worst US team ever? I even called him out since I was wondering how someone could label a team the "worst ever" even before playing an official game.

Already forgot some of the comments haters posted? No fear, here's the link. Just enjoy how bad the haters and their "the sky is falling" mentality are looking today.

Besides, I'm still wondering why those haters where even reading a blog mainly about the NBA if they hate it so much. Just goes to show some people have no life.

At 7:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another good thing about Team USA's success is that we won't have to listen anymore to people telling us that the NBA champs shouldn't be called world champs, considering the real world champ is Spain since they won the '06 event.

Well, you know what? Now the world champ is the United States of America. They are Olympic chams AND World champs.

Congrats on the American team. They represented their country with class and proved the haters wrong.

The sky is not falling, as you can see.

At 10:53 AM, Anonymous Rob said...

"Another good thing about Team USA's success is that we won't have to listen anymore to people telling us that the NBA champs shouldn't be called world champs, considering the real world champ is Spain since they won the '06 event"

That makes no sense - so if Spain had won, then Caja Laboral should be crowned 'world champions' as champions of Spain? The USA is the World Champion, not the Lakers, or whoever wins the NBA next year.

Well done to the US, they deserved to win. Can't call it a B team if you bring the best player on the planet right now though. Call it 1A, but then a lot of countries had their '1A' team out there. Great tournament, worthy winners. Bring on 2012.

At 5:53 AM, Anonymous bakyaw said...

just to remind : Hedo was injured, it was not Tanjevic's decision. I think the coaching mistake was to insist on zone defence against a team which can make quick passes. That destroyed the defence and because of that Turkey gave offensive rebound chance for USA.

At 2:34 AM, Anonymous milaz said...

The real problem is thinking that is the US does *not* win gold, then order has to be -somehow- restored... that the sky is falling on our heads... This is a basketball festival... it's basketball... it's fun to watch... if the US wants to make this some sort of proving ground for the "real" world champs it destroys the whole concept. It was a good tournament, we saw some great games - Serbia-Turkey, Brazil-Argentina, USA-Brazil, Lithuania-Spain...

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