If Team USA needed some sort of warning that this World Cup wasn’t going to be walk in the park came their tough game against Turkey which they did win 98-77, led by Anthony Davis and Kenneth Faried, but showed worrying signs that they might not be as good as they see themselves.
The American team actually went down to the locker rooms at half time trailing by five points at half time, scoring only 35 points through the first two quarters. Things looked completely different in the second half, and one simply has to wonder if this wasn’t a case of players not taking their opponents seriously following having such an easy game to open with against Finland.
So what did Turkey do to make the game seem so close, even if it did end with a 21-point win? Take a note: Any game in which the USA don’t run away with it after the first five minutes is going to be defined as close in this tournament. Looking at what Group C and D have to offer, it’s hard to believe any team can do much worse than what Turkey did, and yet they did set a blueprint for things that might come.
Having a big man that can rebound is a must. Omer Asik finished with 8 rebounds and made it very difficult for offensive rebounds to become possible. They kept throwing zone defenses at the USA, which despite having quite a long list of capable shooters, struggled for most of the first half in its attempts to break down that defense, eventually finishing with 36.4% from beyond the arc. Derrick Rose looked especially struggling when forced into that shot, hitting none of his three attempts.
On offense, Turkey played as slow as possible, forcing the USA into foolish gambles and fouls which turned out to be costly early on. At some point more full court press and a more thinking defense turned the game around, but it showed that when it comes to understanding what’s going on in front of them, this team might still be finding out how to read and react to things correctly.
Faried led the team with 22 points and 8 rebounds, including three steals and 2 blocks. Anthony Davis added 19 points and 6 rebounds, while James Harden and Kyrie Irving provided some firepower from the outside, combining to score 27 points. Still, there are more than a few question marks raised after this game, including defense and the minutes when Derrick Rose is on the floor and teams switch to zone, which was almost painful to watch.