Team USA heads into its second game of the 2019 FIBA World cup riding high off an 87-66 victory over the Czech Republic. Next up is Turkey in a rematch of the 2010 World Cup Championship and likely the most challenging match-up of the group stage for the Americans.
U.S.A. vs. Turkey
September 3 | 7:30 AM CT | Shanghai
Building on defense
In classic Gregg Popovich fashion, there are two keys factors he sees in the path to victory for his relative band of misfits: camaraderie and defense. After giving up 98 points in their exhibition loss to Australia, Pop’s team has given up less than 70 to its last two opponents.
Holding the Czechs to under 35% shooting in the first of half of Sunday’s opener and blocking 5 shots to help them pull away was a good start, but like always never ask Pop if he’s happy about it:
“Happy is not a word that coaches employ, because we’re sick puppies and probably never happy. But defense has to be our calling card. We’ve got to put our money there. All in all, it’s getting better.”
On offense, the Americans are also looking to improve from distance, and they’re off to a good start, hitting 10-26 on Sunday after shooting just 2-14 against the Canadians in their final exhibition.
A bigger test awaits
After only facing one current NBA player in the Bulls’ Tomas Satoransky against the Czechs, the Turks will be bringing in a bit more NBA competition in Ersan Ilyasova (Bucks), Furkan Korkmaz (76ers), and Cedi Osman (Cavaliers), plus former NBA player Semih Erden.
Ilyasova scored 19 points and hit 5 threes in their 19-point win against Japan, so the American defense will have to keep an eye on him. Regardless, Pop’s squad will be favored and should win comfortably if they stick to the game plan.