Team USA has by far the most individual talent in FIBA World Cup play, but a collection of All-Stars can struggle at times against teams that have had the luxury of playing together for years.
That’s what we saw for much of the first half of USA’s 98-77 win over Turkey on the second day of World Cup action.
The team from Turkey imposed its will over the game’s first 20 minutes, and took a five-point lead into the half by using zone defenses and hitting three-pointers at a high percentage, while USA struggled with turnovers and couldn’t seem to knock down open shots.
Both Derrick Rose and Kyrie Irving struggled in a playmaking capacity in the first half, and neither seemed to be able to consistently beat the zone by making the right choices. On the other end of the floor, Turkey slowed the pace to a crawl, and often made USA defend for all 24 seconds of the shot clock, while scoring on enough of those possessions to prevent USA from doing what it does best, which is pushing the tempo and getting out to easy scores in transition.
Eventually, USA matched the effort of the Turkish squad, and led by Kenneth Faried, managed to blow the game open with some active defensive pressure. Faried finished with 22 points on 11-of-14 shooting, to go along with eight rebounds and a few steals. Anthony Davis also got loose on the offensive end, and finished with 19 points of his own.
Derrick Rose wasn’t great in his second straight day of on-court action, and whether due to conditioning or still shaking the rust off, he simply was below average. Rose finished 0-of-4 from the field with two fouls and two turnovers, and was noticeably frustrated with his first half performance.
USA had too much talent, and it all came together for them eventually. But Turkey may have given other teams in this tournament a blueprint of how to take down the heavy favorites: slow the tempo to prevent easy points in transition, play some junk defenses which force playmaking and decision-making in unfamiliar situations, and hope that the shots from beyond the arc fall at a low percentage.
But even if all that happens, if it only continues for half of the game, you’ll still end up losing by 21 points.