Following its 2014 FIBA debut on Saturday against Finland, Team USA doesn't have time to dwell on the past because Sunday brings with it a new challenge in the form of Turkey.
The Americans are, not surprisingly, overwhelming favorites to win the FIBA World Cup. They got off to a fast start, defeating Finland by 59 points on Saturday. Head coach Mike Krzyzewski has never won less than a gold medal since the 2007 FIBA Americans Championship, capturing a title in this event the last time it was held four years ago.
However, at least in the group stage, Turkey could pose the biggest threat to the United States. It looked sluggish in getting a three-point win over New Zealand on Saturday, so that will have to change in a hurry to stick with Team USA. No one is calling for the upset, but based on talent alone, this is an excellent group that has the ability to pull off a surprise if it can put everything together.
Here is a preview for the epic Group C clash complete with a television and live stream schedule and a look ahead at what to expect when the two teams tip off.
Where: City Arena; Bilbao, Spain
When: Sunday, August 31
Start Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
Live Stream: ESPN3.com
Rosters for both teams can be found at FIBA.com.
When Paul George suffered that gruesome injury during a scrimmage event for Team USA, it could have been a divisive moment for the other players on the team. Instead, that ugly incident seems to have been a galvanizing force.
That was a gruesome injury (to George), and it kind of affected all of us, even guys who weren't playing.
But now we know that he's doing fine and we've got to keep moving forward and try to win this gold for him. ... I'm hoping that (this experience) makes me take a leap coming into the season next year.
It helps to have talents like Davis, Derrick Rose, Kyrie Irving and James Harden leading your squad, but it can't be understated the job Coach K has done with this group already. Davis was terrific against Finland, scoring 17 points on 6-of-8 shooting.
Rose, who scored 12 points but also had five turnovers on Saturday, is the player everyone has eyes on because it's nice to see him playing basketball again after injuries have essentially kept him out the last two years. Granted, as Chris Sheridan of SheridanHoops.com noted after the last exhibition, Irving was the superior player in one category:
It's a good thing Coach K has been able to build a rapport with this group because Turkey is a team capable of making things interesting. Omer Asik leads the charge for the Turkish team.
Kevin Pelton of ESPN.com (insider subscription required) noted Turkey's long-term history in international events paints a rosy picture, even though the short-term results tell a much different story:
On paper, Turkey should be a major threat. After all, as hosts four years ago, Turkey reached the final. Turkey has got plenty of talent around Omer Asik. Yet Turkey went 1-6 in exhibition games, including all three played on home soil.
Unless Turkey has been able to pinpoint those issues, it's going to be a long day on the court against a USA squad that has playmakers inside and outside capable of taking over a game at a moment's notice.
This isn't the kind of game that America is going to lose, even if it comes out sluggish at the start. That's not going to happen, though, so Coach K can just sit back and bask in the glow of another big win.
Prediction: USA 97, Turkey 71
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