The USA men's basketball team encountered a difficult hurdle in Sunday's 2014 FIBA World Cup game against a composed Turkey squad.
In a rematch of the 2010 gold-medal game, though, Team USA's NBA All-Star-laden roster eventually stepped up, erasing a five-point halftime deficit to win comfortably, 98-77, at Bizkaia Arena in Bilbao, Spain.
The victory improves the Americans to 2-0, which leaves them in first place in Group C at this year's tournament.
ESPN's J.A. Adande noted how Turkey used a methodical approach to mitigate the USA's athletic advantage early on:
At halftime, USA has a 5 - point deficit vs. Turkey that won't be easy to erase in a slow-paced game.— J.A. Adande (@jadande) August 31, 2014
Marc Stein of ESPN.com analyzed Turkey's hot start:
Props to the wily Ergin Ataman. Turkey's coach has had a blueprint half here with his guys controlling the pace and the boards— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) August 31, 2014
Turkey, remember, needed a wild card just to get to Spain after going 1-4 at EuroBasket 2013. Best they've played in ages— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) August 31, 2014
But New Orleans Pelicans young stud Anthony Davis led the comeback charge, netting 11 points in the third quarter alone and all 19 of his points in the second half. Jim Eichenhofer of Pelicans.com took notice:
Anthony Davis scored 11 points in 3rd qtr to spearhead USA's 31-20 edge. USA up 66-60 entering 4th. Omer Asik 6 pts, 8 reb, 3 blk— Jim Eichenhofer (@Jim_Eichenhofer) August 31, 2014
Davis' new NBA teammate Omer Asik promises to create a great frontcourt in New Orleans, something Indiana Pacers star Roy Hibbert recognized as Sunday's game unfolded:
Asik is the only NBA player on Turkey's roster. However, the myriad of native pros showed their experience and chemistry in standing toe-to-toe with some of the Association's best.
ESPN's Fran Fraschilla pointed to the number of great Turkey players in action—many of whom were part of the team that lost the 2010 championship game in Istanbul:
Turkey's got 8 players back who played in 2010 FIBA title game vs. USA. Not intimidated. Game plan is muck up game with zone & patient O.— Fran Fraschilla (@franfraschilla) August 31, 2014
Faried, who led all scorers with 22 points and matched Asik for a game-high eight rebounds, did his best to describe what issues his side was having, per the NBA on ESPN:
"We're not playing our game... We're buying into what they want to do." - @KennethFaried35 on what went wrong in the first half.— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) August 31, 2014
Part of the rebounding problem was attributable to rather poor outside shooting from the Americans. Head coach Mike Krzyzewski likes to live by the three-pointer at Duke, and the offensive firepower Team USA has makes that philosophy translatable to international basketball.
Accepting player input also allows Krzyzewski, a career college coach, to translate his skills to the U.S. team, as he explained to NBA.com's John Schuhmann:
In college, I help guys get over bridges of improvement. When I coach the U.S. Team, these guys have gone over a lot of bridges already. And they have a lot of really good practices or ideas, that, if they’re shared and we can incorporate them, will make us better. So that’s what I try to do.
The battle-tested pros on the U.S. roster did indeed show their collective resolve in this one.
With an increased ferocity on the glass and improved guard play from the likes of Stephen Curry and Kyrie Irving, Team USA managed to absorb the counter-punches by Turkey to claw back into the game. A key Curry three with 1:47 left in the third stretched the USA's lead to 64-59.
That was the start of the USA breaking the game open, as Turkey turned it over far too much and let the USA get into a rhythm in transition. Faried continued to thrive, along with Davis, whom ESPN.com's Ethan Strauss praised:
I like how you can pretty much throw the ball into the stands and get an alley oop assist to Anthony Davis— Ethan Strauss (@SherwoodStrauss) August 31, 2014
ESPN Stats & Info highlighted a pertinent fact:
After allowing 18 points in the paint in the first half, Team USA held Turkey to 4 points on 25% (2-of-8) shooting in the paint in 3rd Q— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) August 31, 2014
ESPNLosAngeles.com's Dave McMenamin lauded Faried and Davis by their beloved monikers:
The Manimal and The Brow keeping The Holiday Weekend intact.— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) August 31, 2014
The pace of play picked up into the fourth, and the U.S. kept ratcheting up the defensive intensity while attacking the rim more often on the other end. It evidently worked out.
Several marquee players, such as LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Chris Paul, are not playing for Team USA, so this isn't quite the caliber of roster that it could be. Nevertheless, the team continued to fight hard amid a tough Sunday test, jelled well and set itself up for future FIBA World Cup success.
Of this year's American participants, many are younger players who are staying sharp and on a promising developmental path. The 21-year-old Davis showed leadership and rose to the occasion when his team needed a jolt of energy.
Next up for the U.S. is a Tuesday matchup with New Zealand, which should prove to be easier than what the Americans encountered versus Turkey. New Zealand is the only 0-2 team in Group C.