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Turks Give U.S. A Tremendous Game But Lose

It's good news for the U.S. as everyone seems to understand why the team struggled.

This picture is from the London Olympic games but the expression was probably seen Sunday against Turkey in the FIBA World Cup.
This picture is from the London Olympic games but the expression was probably seen Sunday against Turkey in the FIBA World Cup.
Christian Petersen

During his time in South Africa as a war correspondent covering the Boer War, Winston Churchill declared that "nothing in life is so exhilarating as to be shot at without result."

After playing the Turks, the U.S. team may agree.

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Turkey gave the Americans a much tougher game than most expected, leading at halftime and down just six late in the fourth.

That the U.S. won going away is more the result of a 17-1 run in the waning minutes of the game. Turkey was otherwise right there.

To be sure, the U.S. hit the accelerator to pull away, winning 98-77. It's also true though that it wasn't punched earlier. No one has to be told that that's a dangerous practice that can't go on. The players were pretty clear on it.

James Harden: "I guess we felt like last night's game was pretty easy and tonight was going to be the same way, but Turkey came out and they gave us their punch from the beginning. We took it and we were sluggish. That second half we played a lot better."

Anthony Davis: "I think we didn't come ready to play in the first half and we can't afford to do that if we want to win a gold medal. So we've got to come out ready to play no matter who we're playing against."

In some respects, the most impressive guy for the U.S. was Kenneth Faried.

Faried is a forward but he signed on to be an "energy player," which is a nice way to say he's willing to do the tough stuff not everyone else is willing to do, or that he's not as good as everyone else and he keeps his job by working harder.


The guy's been a revelation. Yes he does the dirty work, but he also was the leading scorer in this game, and his willingness to hustle kept pressure on Turkey and his own teammates, who eventually had to meet his level.

It was a tough night for Derrick Rose, who was 0-4, 2-4 from the line and who had two boards, which were negated by two turnovers.

Still, despite the disappointing first half, this game is, in general, a plus for the U.S.

Team USA got a significant test, and that's all for the good.

Monday is a rest day and Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday will see back-to-back-to-back games.

Tuesday is New Zealand, Wednesday is the Dominican Republic and Thursday Ukraine.

Of the three, Ukraine is probably the toughest, although the Tall Blacks have at times played with great flair (the U.S. played the Dominicans in an exhibition game and won handily. Also Karl Towns is not on this trip but getting busy at Kentucky).

And as Duke fans know, generally speaking, you don't want to play a Coach K team after a disappointing performance because you're very likely to get both barrels the next time out.

On the other hand, though, people stateside have figured out that giving him extra motivation is not a wise move. As he said recently, he has always been able to harness anger productively (although judiciously: at halftime, Faried said he was "shocked" that Coach K didn't explode but, rather, was positive).

His players have high confidence in Ataman and have said so on more than one occasion. And he offered a game plan that other teams may emulate. The guy is world-class.

So it was a curious decision for him to lash out after the game, as quoted by ESPN's Marc Stein: "Ataman accused the refs of letting the Americans get away with too much contact, too much hand-checking and too many traveling violations, and then alleged FIBA is forcing five of the six teams in Group C to stay in one hotel while the United States is sequestered in a hotel of its own."

He also said coaching against Krzyzewski was a dream of his and that he hopes to meet the U.S. again in the tournament.

If he does, you can be sure he'll see a very different team.

One interesting note on the tournament so far: in two games, the U.S. has forced 58 turnovers. That's tremendous.

What used to kill Team USA though was three point shooting. So far the Finns were held to 4-21 and the Turks to 9-24. That's a total of 13-45.

We can't prove this, but we'd guess that in this tournament and in the Olympics as well, that three point percentage by opponents goes down pretty sharply in the fourth quarter.

Food for thought. And final thought: New Zealand will get both barrels Tuesday.