|2014 FIBA World Championship Preliminary Games|
|August 31st, 2014|
|Bizkaia Arena, Bilbao, Basque Autonomous Province, Spain|
|3:30 PM Central Daylight Time|
|TV: ESPN3.com in the USA, Livebasketball.tv Internationally|
|Injury Report: All players are expected to be ready.|
|Previous Matchups: None since the 2010 Gold Medal game.|
|Ender Arslan||PG||Kyrie Irving|
|Sinan Guler||SG||Stephen Curry|
|Emir Preldzic||SF||James Harden|
|Kerem Gonlum||PF||Kenneth Faried|
|Furkan Aldemir||C||Anthony Davis|
After Turkey's strong comeback victory to win their first game of the tournament, Coach Ergin Ataman was very proud of his team's performance. He even went so far as to say ,"I think we will be very dangerous for all teams in our group, including the United States."
Hay, at least he has confidence. Team USA couldn't possibly look any stronger right now. They've rolled through their preliminary competition, and barely even had to think about beating Finland last night. Meanwhile, Turkey's win was less than impressive. They got a huge boost from two dumb technical fouls on New Zealand's end, and they left New Zealand's two best shooters open with a shot to send the game to OT. They also basically won the game by slamming Oguz Savas into a brutally undersized New Zealand front line. They won't have any such luxury during this game, as Anthony Davis will be more than enough to handle any simple pick and rolls.
What's more is that Turkey's first half in that game was absolutely dreadful. They only managed to rack up two assists by halftime, and they bricked their share of open shots. Neither a lack of ball movement nor missed opportunity will have Turkey fare well against Team USA.
If you want to look a bit further in Turkey's archives, what you find isn't promising. Turkey went 1-6 in their preliminary matches, only registering a win against a struggling Puerto Rico. Their losses were all arguably to world top 10 teams, like Spain (X2), Greece (X2), Serbia, and Canada. Turkey was able to secure single-digit losses and battled hard, but it's still apparent that they're a couple echelons away from competing with the USA.
That might seem strange, given that Turkey is only four years removed from having competed with Team USA in the gold medal match on their home turf. Since then, their squad has fallen apart. Hedo Turkolgu and Omer Onan aged out of usefulness. Turkoglu didn't do this gracefully, posting an abysmally bad performance in the 2013 Eurobasket. It got longtime coach Bogdan Tanjevic fired, as well as obviously disrupting the chemistry of the team. Also, Semih Erden and Ersan Ilyasova bailed, effectively robbing the team of their best two potential scorers.
Anyway, is there a specific matchup or weakness that Turkey can exploit? Well, small forward Emir Preldzic has been used as a point guard in his recent career, and he's certainly effective for Turkey as a ballhandler. If his shot heated up a bit, I could see him setting up a couple of the Turkish bigs for easy points. Meanwhile, Omer Asik is the best defensive big Team USA has seen. Asik's going to give Team USA's bigs more trouble than they're used to, and the amount of size behind him should give Turkey some confidence. Still, Turkey's big man core isn't very mobile, and I could easily see their paint presence neutralized by the USA's superior athleticism.
In terms of individual players, Turkey's team doesn't really have anybody to write home about. They all play for Euroleague clubs and are thus quite experienced, but none of them averaged over 10 PPG last season. As far as I could tell. So it's like Turkey has this team of complete role players plus a defensive center (Asik), and a small forward who can shoot and pass (Emir Preldzic). Eh, I guess they've got grit.
Anyway, Turkey isn't terrible and may be able to hang around for a while. But I just don't see them having the firepower offensively or the athleticism defensively to make this game super competitive. It should be over by the end of the third, at least. By the way, Ersan Ilyasova would have been perfect for this team.
Prediction: Team USA 121, Turkey 89.
What do you think of tonight's matchup? Drop a comment and let us know!