Turkey is America's biggest threat at the World Championships

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Thumbnail image for Turkoglu_Turkey.jpgSpain is good with a depth of talent we know about. Argentina has the best player so far in the tournament in Luis Scola. Brazil already almost beat the USA. Greece has been very good and has the motion offense that can give the USA fits.

Turkey is playing better than all of them. And Turkey might be the toughest matchup for the USA. If these two teams meet, the USA could meet their match.

The World Championship hosts have shown flashes of spectacular play in international tournaments before — at the last Eurobasket they beat Spain (as well as Lithuania and Serbia). Then they lost to Greece in the round of 8 and that was that. Then they came into the World Champions as host but without Mehmet Okur, still recovering from his Achilles injury in the NBA playoffs. A lot of people, myself included, looked past them.

But Turkey is a beast — as shown in their 95-77 destruction of France. Slovenia is next and Turkey should have no problem there. Then likely would come Spain in the semi-finals and, theoretically, the USA in the championship game.

The USA may prefer Spain right now. For two reasons.

One is Turkey has proven to have the best front line in the tournament. They start Omer Asik (coming to the Chicago Bulls), Ersan Ilyasova (Milwaukee Bucks) and Hedo Turkoglu (Phoenix Suns). Then they bring in soon-to-be Celtic Semih Erden.

Turkoglu had not impressed through the group stage of the tournament but broke out in a big way against France scoring a game high 20 and hitting 4 of 7 from deep. Basically 2009 in Orlando Turkoglu showed up. If he does that will be hard for everyone else to stop. Meanwhile Ilyasova has averaged 15 points and 8.2 rebounds a game through the tournament and is hitting 56 percent of his threes.

Basically the undersized USA would have to take on a long, skilled front line — Turkey’s strength is the USA’s weakness.

The second Turkey has going for it is the best defense in the World Championships. In pool play, they allowed just 81.1 points per 100 possessions, best in this tournament and for comparison no team in the NBA was under 100 points per 100 possessions last season. (Thanks John Schuhmann of NBA.com for the stat.)

Turkey runs a 2-3 matchup zone, but it is much more aggressive than any other in the tournament. The guards out top extend the pressure up high, backline guys will chase shooters into the corners. While the USA’s zone looks like a zone, the Turkey zone really employs man-to-man principles and uses a lot of pressure.

Combine that halfcourt defense with a skilled long front line and the USA could struggle against them.

Fortunately, the USA would not see Turkey until the finals, if it can get past Spain. But either way, when the USA gets to the gold medal game they will be in for a real battle.

Dwyane Wade with dagger dunk to seal Bulls win vs. Suns (VIDEO)

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The time off during the All-Star break did Dwyane Wade some good.

The Bulls guard turned back the clock on Friday night, leading the Bulls with 23 points and topping it off with this dunk that proved to be the dagger, sealing a Chicago win. The Suns were convinced Wade was going to run the shot clock way down before making his move and they lollygagged into position — so he just blew past everyone for the poster slam.

The Bulls won 128-121. Devin Booker led the Suns with 27.

DeMarre Carroll shoves Isaiah Thomas to ground on break, tempers flare

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Atlanta’s DeMarre Carroll picked up a deserved flagrant for this foul.

With a couple of minutes left to go in the second quarter, Isaiah Thomas made the steal when DeMar DeRozan lost the ball on a drive, and Thomas was off to the races. Trying to prevent a lay-up, Carroll decided to foul Thomas far from the basket, but did so with a forearm shove that sent Thomas sprawling on the ground.

Thomas got up and had words, as did Jae Crowder.

Carroll got a flagrant and a technical, Thomas and Crowder each picked up technicals for jumping in.

Seth Curry puts up career high 31 against Timberwolves (VIDEO)

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When Stephen Curry wore a headband through the All-Star Game last weekend, West coach Steve Kerr jokingly called him “Seth” all night.

Dallas’ Seth Curry came out of the week-long break playing like an All-Star. He dropped 31 on the Minnesota Timberwolves Friday night, a career high for him. He hit 13-of-17 from the field, including three from beyond the arc, but did a lot of his damage in the midrange.

It wasn’t enough, the Timberwolves got a comfortable 97-84 win behind 27 points from Andrew Wiggins and 26 from Karl-Anthony Towns. Nerlens Noel was not yet with his new team in time to play for the Mavs in this game.

Spurs kick off rust from layoff to beat Clippers 105-97 in Chris Paul’s return

San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard dunks during the first half of the team's NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Clippers, Friday, Feb. 24, 2017, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Associated Press
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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Kawhi Leonard scored 21 points despite foul trouble and the San Antonio Spurs shook off the rust from a nine-day layoff to beat the Los Angeles Clippers 105-97 on Friday night for their third straight win.

Pau Gasol added 17 points and 11 rebounds off the bench in his return from a 15-game absence because of a fractured finger. LaMarcus Aldridge had 15 points and 11 rebounds, and Dewayne Dedmon grabbed 12 rebounds.

Blake Griffin scored 29 points for the Clippers, who have dropped consecutive games to the league’s two winningest teams since the All-Star break ended. They lost by 10 points at Golden State a night earlier. The Spurs have the league’s second-best record at 44-13.

Chris Paul added 17 points in his return after missing five weeks with a torn ligament in his left thumb.