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Team USA shows class in final victory
FIBA World Championship final: Team USA 81, Turkey 64
What were the most important ingredients in this last and most impressive win of the tournament?
An alert, aggressive and quick-handed defense that challenged Turkey’s every pass, every catch and every shot. Exemplified by Kevin Durant hustling with all his might to run down and block a breakaway layup in the second quarter before the Americans had put a stranglehold on the outcome.
The Americans' overwhelming quickness and relentless effort forced the Turks to play their set offenses and make critical decisions at a much faster pace than they were used to, thereby taking full advantage of the Turks' comparative inabilities to pass and to catch
Their switching on screen/rolls created some mismatches in the low post, but also limited the Turks to 13 screen/roll points. That’s because even against smaller defenders, Turkey’s bigs had to dribble in place for several counts before finally attacking the basket, giving defensive diggers enough time to launch their own attacks on the ball.
In all, the Americans' hot-footed defensive rotations caused the Turks to miss 10 layups.
Rudy Gay and Andre Iguodala absolutely shut down Ersan Ilyasova and minimized the effectiveness of Hedo Turkoglu. However, it did seem that Turkoglu’s heart wasn’t in the game. One reason could be that his teammates simply weren’t sufficiently accomplished enough to take advantage of his considerable skills as a facilitator. Or perhaps he really did hurt his knee in the second quarter. Or maybe he decided not to risk any real injury in what was obviously a lost cause — which is probably what he chose to do late in the NBA season with the Raptors. Only Hedo knows for sure.
Lamar Odom was a long-armed presence at both ends of the court when the gold was up for grabs. The ball-hawking of Russell Westbrook and Derrick Rose created runaway scores. Whenever his teammates got too impetuous, Chauncey Billups' steady hand restored the necessary order. Quick hops produced several putbacks, dunk-backs and extra possessions.
Most importantly, the magnificence of Durant kept the game out of reach. This time he had 28 points and, even though Turkey’s zone defenses tried to focus on him, it was KD’s seven 3-pointers that forced the Turks to play man-to-man — which Team USA simply destroyed.
Indeed, until the Americans' defense wore down Turkey and created easy scores, Durant was his team’s only reliable scorer. Check that — more than reliable, he was devastating.
Looking back, Team USA was challenged only by Brazil as it breezed through the competition. The players overcame their youthful impatience, their inexperience in the international game and their tendency to freelance at every opportunity.
Much of the credit goes to Coach K and his staff for keeping a loose rein on his young and trigger-happy players, for using his bench wisely and for insisting that they play energetic defense.
Equally as impressive as the wins was the way in which the players carried themselves: not going ballistic when the inept officiating made horrific calls against them, demonstrating humility and strength and steadiness of character (Charles Barkley take note), and above all, respecting their opponents, themselves and the game itself.
America could not have had more admirable ambassadors in the world arena than the coaches and players that comprised Team USA at this championship.
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