Kemba Walker, USA Avoid Upset, Beat Turkey in OT at 2019 FIBA World Cup

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistSeptember 3, 2019

Turkey's Scott Wilbekin dribbles the ball during the Basketball World Cup Group E game between US and Turkey in Shanghai on September 3, 2019. (Photo by HECTOR RETAMAL / AFP)        (Photo credit should read HECTOR RETAMAL/AFP/Getty Images)
HECTOR RETAMAL/Getty Images

The United States survived a tough challenge from Turkey to improve to 2-0 at the 2019 FIBA World Cup with a 93-92 overtime victory Tuesday at Shanghai Oriental Sports Center in Shanghai, China.  

After Turkey missed four consecutive free throws with a 92-91 lead in overtime, Milwaukee Bucks wing Khris Middleton made two free throws with two seconds remaining in the extra frame to allow the Americans to escape with the win.

Team USA shot a paltry 35 percent from the field, but it converted 78 percent of its free-throw attempts, while Turkey shot just 61 percent from the charity stripe.

Bucks forward Ersan Ilyasova gave Turkey an 81-79 lead with 11 seconds left in regulation when he tipped in a missed three-pointer from Cleveland Cavaliers forward Cedi Osman, but Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum was fouled at the buzzer by Osman on a three-point attempt. Tatum made two of his three free throws to force overtime.

Middleton was the Americans' leading scorer with 15 points on 5-of-9 shooting, and Ilyasova led all scorers with 23 points.

Team USA improved to 2-0 with the win, while Turkey fell to 1-1.

With 50 seconds remaining in overtime, Osman completed an old-fashioned three-point play to give Turkey a one-point lead. Dogus Balbay missed two free throws shortly thereafter, but since Brooklyn Nets guard Joe Harris was called for an unsportsmanlike foul, Turkey retained possession.

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Osman was fouled on the inbound play, but he missed both of his free throws as well, which left the door open for Team USA. Middleton was fouled on a drive to the basket with two seconds left and made both of his free throws, while Ilyasova missed an open three as time expired.

Tatum, who made a quality pass to Middleton before he was fouled, appeared to injure his ankle on the play and had to leave the game.

While the Gregg Popovich-coached Americans showed great gumption and grit by hanging in there to pick up the win, Andy Larsen of the Salt Lake Tribune and Jason Patt of Clutch Points were two of many who chalked it up to Turkey choking the game away:

Team USA looked strong out of the gates with a 26-21 lead after the first quarter, and it carried that five-point lead into halftime. Turkey chipped away to make it a four-point deficit after three, and it outscored the United States 20-16 in the fourth to force overtime.

While the Americans shot just 35 percent from the field and 35 percent from deep, they attempted 40 trifectas and made 14 of them. Of the 11 players who saw action Tuesday, eight of them made a three-pointer for Team USA.

Also, six players scored in double figures for the United States, as Celtics guard Kemba Walker (14 points), Tatum (11), Indiana Pacers center Myles Turner (11), Harris (11) and Sacramento Kings wing Harrison Barnes (10) joined Middleton in that regard.

Turkey had five players score in double figures, but only seven players scored for the team overall, which underscored its lack of depth compared to Team USA.

Osman and Philadelphia 76ers forward Furkan Korkmaz are Turkey's other two NBA players aside from Ilyasova, and they finished with 15 and 16 points, respectively.

With wins over Turkey and Czech Republic, the Americans are guaranteed a spot in the second round of the World Cup. They will look to close out Group E play with a perfect 3-0 record when they face 0-2 Japan on Thursday.

Turkey will face 1-1 Czech Republic on Thursday, and while the winning team will advance, the loser will be eliminated.