It wasn't pretty, but the United States Men's National Team advanced to 2-0 with a 93-92 overtime win over Turkey on Day 4 of the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup. With the win, Team USA has secured its spot in the next stage of play at the tournament.
Despite trailing by as many as 15 points, Turkey hung with Team USA for the majority of the game and had the opportunity to put the game away in overtime before missing four consecutive free throws with under 10 seconds left, leading to Khris Middleton's game-winning free throws with 2.1 seconds remaining.
Middleton finished with a team-high 15 points, Kemba Walker added 14 points while Jayson Tatum, Myles Turner and Joe Harris each finished with 11 points apiece for the Americans, who were fortunate to come out with a win.
Ersan Ilyasova's 23 points led the way for Turkey while Meiluh Mahmutoglu added 18.
As Team USA looks to avoid any more scares this tournament, here are some takeaways from their narrow victory…
A Close Call
Each time it seemed that Team USA would pull away, Turkey found a way to not only make things interesting but regain control of the game.
The game saw eight ties and six lead changes and ultimately, a number of sequences that could have ended the game had they gone differently.
With 3:20 remaining in overtime, Team USA trailed by five points before going on a 7-0 run to take a two-point lead. Up two, Walker failed to connect on a triple that he's made countless times, leading to a converted and-one from Cedi Osman to give Turkey a one-point lead.
This is where the madness began.
Team USA failed to get a shot up as Dogus Balbay forced Myles Turner to turn the ball over. After an intentional foul from Joe Harris was deemed unsportsmanlike, Turkey would receive two shots and the ball.
To say Team USA was fortunate would be an understatement as Balbay's missed free throws kept the door open before Osman missed two more free throws to set up the game-winning possession for the Americans.
At times it takes luck to get it done, and Team USA needed plenty of it in Tuesday's win.
Turkey's Star Power
The Turkish Men's National Team has the second-most NBA talent in Group E behind Team USA.
In the one-point loss, 84 of Turkey's 92 points came from just five players, led by Ilyasova's 23 points on 9-for-19 shooting. Philadelphia 76ers guard Furkan Korkmaz finished with 16 points on 6-for-11 shooting while Cleveland Cavaliers forward Cedi Osman scored 15 points despite shooting just 4-for-15 from the field.
Mahmutoglu, who has won a Euroleague Championship with Turkish power Fenerbahce, scored his 18 points on an efficient 8-for-13 from the field and naturalized Turkish citizen Scott Wilbekin, who was the SEC Player of the Year at Florida, came up big with his 12 points in under 15 minutes in action.
Turkey will need a win over the Czech Republic to qualify for the next stage, which is very doable off the momentum of the close loss.
Team USA's Offensive Woes
The numbers only tell part of the story, and even they show that it was a tough night on the offensive end for Team USA.
USA finished the game shooting 27-for-77 (35.1%) from the field, including 14-for-40 (35.0%) from beyond the arc. The team's offensive struggles were a product of an inability to create good spacing or find a rhythm in the half-court, as possessions would often end with low-quality or highly-contested shots.
Walker, the team's chief shot-creator, finished the game shooting 5-for-14 from the field while Tatum shot 3-for-11 and Donovan Mitchell was 3-for-12. That lack of efficiency isn't going to get the job done for this team moving forward.
Fortunately for the Americans, they were able to force 15 turnovers and grab 17 offensive rebounds in the game. Team USA converted the 15 turnovers it forced into 19 points and scored 18 second chance points to Turkey's nine.
Had it not been for Team USA forcing turnovers to get free in transition and out-hustling Turkey on the boards, it would have likely dropped this game. For this team to reach its lofty goals for the remainder of the tournament, it must find a way to remedy its issues on offence.
Jayson Tatum's Injury
Unfortunately for Team USA, the win came with a price.
The final possession that led to Middleton's game-winning free throws was led by Tatum's coast-to-coast drive. After dropping the ball off to Middleton, Tatum stepped wrong to suffer what has been ruled as a sprained left ankle, per Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press.
Jayson Tatum has a sprained ankle. USA Basketball will know more tomorrow.- Tim Reynolds (@ByTimReynolds) September 3, 2019
With the fear of injuries keeping many from participating in the tournament, it's fair to assume that Team USA will err on the side of caution when working him back into the rotation. Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe has reported that Tatum has communicated with Celtics head coach Brad Stevens that the injury does not appear to be serious.
About 20 minutes after his ankle injury, Jayson Tatum texted Brad Stevens, who is in Boston, and told him the injury didn't appear to be serious. #Celtics #TeamUSA- gary washburn (@GwashburnGlobe) September 3, 2019
This ankle sprain will certainly be something to monitor as Tatum's offensive capabilities are key to the United States contending for gold in China.
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