FIBA World Championships Open Thread: Team U.S.A. vs. Turkey

Today, Team U.S.A. can complete a rather improbable feat by winning the gold at the FIBA World Championships, and thus securing a berth to the 2010 Olympics, but it'll have to do it against a tough opponent with a tremendous home-court advantage. Indeed, host Turkey has also blown through the bracket with an 8-0 record to earn a spot in the Gold Medal Game, and will have a legion of screaming fans on hand to cheer it on at the Sinan Erdem Dome today at 2:30 PM Eastern; ESPN and ESPN3.com will televise the game stateside.

The U.S. advanced yesterday with an 89-74 win against Lithuania; Kevin Durant scored 38 points to set a new scoring record for his country in international competition. Later, Turkey dispatched Serbia, 83-82, with a half-second remaining on the strength of Kerem Tunceri's layup. Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports writes Tunceri's heroics "transform[ed] the loudest, most raucous arena you’ll ever visit into something beyond bedlam," and it's safe to say that today's game will indeed include the most hostile environment many members of Team U.S.A. have ever encountered in their careers.

For Turkey, the key is to bottle up Durant. Good luck with that. His outburst yesterday raised his scoring average to 22.1 points per game, the third-best in the tournament, and the very best among remaining players. And he's seventh in field-goal shooting, converting 55.2 percent of his opportunities from the field. Among all players, only Argentina's Luis Scola has converted more shots at a higher percentage than Durant. He is an offensive nightmare who needs to be the first, second, and third options for the Americans today in the halfcourt.

Turkey features a strong frontcourt, with NBA forwards Hedo Turkoglu and Ersan Ilyasova, as well as centers Omer Asik and Semih Erden, two guys who will make their NBA debuts this season. Ilyasova paces Turkey in scoring at 14.3 per contest, while Turkoglu is seccond with 11.9, albeit on only 40 percent shooting from the floor.

After the jump, a glance at some Synergy Sports Technology data which illustrate the teams' shot patterns on offense and defense, and what we may expect to happen today based on those data.

When Team U.S.A. has the ball:

Transition fuels the Americans' offense, but in the halfcourt, they're primarily a one-on-one team, with isolations accounting for roughly one-in-six of their possessions. Pick-and-roll isn't far behind, at approximately one-in-seven.

Team Shot Type %Time Points Per Shot Rating
(Percentile)
U.S.A.
Offense
Jumper 55.8% 1.143 Excellent
(91)
Turkey
Defense
78.0% 0.848 Excellent
(96)
U.S.A.
Offense
Around
Basket
(not
post-up)
41.9% 1.084 Average
(39)
Turkey
Defense
12.8% 0.718 Excellent
(91)
U.S.A.
Offense
Post-Up 2.4% 0.600 Poor
(5)
Turkey
Defense
9.2% 0.571 Excellent
(96)

Thanks to the Americans' ability to get out in transition, the team's managed to get plenty of looks right at the rim. However, it's a jump-shooting team, which is in line with the international style of play. What becomes obvious here is that defense has keyed Turkey's success. It's limited its opponents' easy looks, as nearly three out of four shots attempted against Turkey have been jumpers. And although an overwhelming majority of the jumpers have come from three-point range (73.4 percent, to be precise), they haven't found the bottom of the net nearly often enough; opponents have shot 33.9 percent from beyond the arc in this tournament. Thanks largely to Chauncey Billups (35.9 percent), Eric Gordon (50 percent), and Durant (43.2 percent), Team U.S.A. has posted a 39.9 percent mark from that distance. Approximating that level of efficiency will go a long way toward securing victory this afternoon.

And although the Americans are a middling team around the rim, they need to at least try to get there. Launching jumpers plays right into Turkey's heretofore incredibly successful gameplan.

When Turkey has the ball:

Expect a lot of pick-and-roll, which comprises nearly one-in-five Turkish offensive possessions.

Team Shot Type %Time Points Per Shot Rating
(Percentile)
Turkey
Offense
Jumper 52.7% 1.204 Excellent
(100)
U.S.A.
Defense
63.2% 0.963 Very Good
(70)
Turkey
Offense
Around
Basket
(not
post-up)
37.2% 1.263 Excellent
(96)
U.S.A.
Defense
22.6% 0.662 Excellent
(95)
Turkey
Offense
Post-Up 10.0% 0.833 Good
(60)
U.S.A.
Defense
14.1% 0.646 Excellent
(83)

Turkey's attack is similar to the United States', and even more potent in two key areas. It's really no wonder it's made it this far in the tournament. Team U.S.A.'s been elite at protecting the rim, so one suspects that Turkey will continue its tried-and-true, perimeter-oriented attack. Five of its players boast three-point marks over 40 percent, meaning the Americans must emphasize chasing those shooters off the line and directing them into the paint. Lamar Odom and Tyson Chandler, sopping up most of the center minutes for Team U.S.A., will have their hands full as effective free safeties if their teammates on the outside do their jobs. Further, their rebounding and outlet-passing will be key in kick-starting the Americans' transition game. The defense must create offense, especially against a team like Turkey, which plays lockdown defense in the halfcourt.

But if the Americans pay too much attention to the shooters, the Turkish team can make them pay with off-ball movement. The big men--that'd be Asik and Erden--as well as point guard Ender Arslan, have made a killing by cutting to the hoop behind the defense, accounting for 50 of Turkey's 67 cuts in this tournament.

This analysis makes clear that Turkey will keep constant pressure on the United States' defense. It doesn't have many weaknesses; then again, neither does the United States. Thus, about all we can expect is a well-played, hotly contested game that figures to go right down to the wire. Can Durant's transcendent scoring overwhelm Turkey's blanketing defense and neutralize its home-court advantage? I'll be watching to learn the answers to those questions. So should you. This space is your place to comment before, during, and after the game.

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