Unlike most first halves of play for the 2014 USA Basketball Men’s National Team, it was the offense that took a while to get into rhythm Sunday against Turkey in the FIBA World Cup of Basketball tournament in Spain.
The teams were tied at 16-16 after one quarter and USA’s shooters had trouble knocking down open looks against the zone defense played by Turkey.
The one player on the USA team that had no trouble getting started was the energetic Kenneth Faried whose hustle and athleticism stood out once again. After an athletic block against the backboard on the defense end, a beautiful reverse layup by Faried put USA up 14-10 midway through the first — part of a 9-0 run for the Americans.
The second quarter played out much like the first as the US team continued to struggle offensively — with several bad passes and a handful of whistles for traveling.
Coach Mike Krzyzewski continued to use different lineup rotations, seemingly searching for a unit that could provide consistent scoring. But the effectiveness of Turkey in limiting the fast break opportunities for USA was a huge reason for the 40-35 lead they held at the half.
Faried and DeMarcus Cousins each scored 8 first half points while the guards struggled to find their shot. Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Derrick Rose combined to shoot 3-for-13 from the floor through two quarters.
Facing a five-point deficit to start the second half, USA made a concerted effort to get big man Anthony Davis more touches on offense and the change in strategy seemed to work. Davis poured in 11 quick points in the third quarter and the American offense heated up as a whole.
But as more shots fell for the US team, Turkey executed the pick-and-roll offense flawlessly and continually knocked down open looks from deep.
Despite shooting 7-for-14 in the third, Turkey was forced into eight turnovers in the quarter and outscored 31-20 by the US team. The six-point lead for USA heading into the fourth (66-60) was the largest lead they held to that point.
The American offense only got better in the fourth as they opened the final quarter with a 10-0 run and held a 76-60 advantage with eight minutes remaining in the game.
The energy of Faried and the dominance on both ends of the floor by Davis turned a close game into a blowout in the final quarter. Thompson and James Harden both found an open Davis streaking to the rim and connected on alleyoops.
A 3-pointer and subsequent free throw by Harden put the US team up 93-69 with just under four minutes of play left on the clock.
Outscoring Turkey 63-37 in the second half, the Americans were led by Faried’s 22 points and 19 from Davis — all in the second half. In total, five players on the US team scored in double figures while holding Turkey to just one.
The US gets back into World Cup pool play on Tuesday against New Zealand. Game time is set for 11:30 a.m. It will be aired by ESPN2.
The Americans opened the tourney with Saturday’s 114-55 win over Finland.
The US also plays the Dominican Republic and Ukraine in its pool.