FIBA: Team USA, Durant Golden In Turkey

FIBA: Team USA, Durant Golden In Turkey

FIBA Durant & Team USA Golden In Turkey

words_Brandon Richard

The United States Men’s National Basketball Team went into the 2010 FIBA World Championship with two big obstacles to overcome – their lack of size and lack of experience. So it seemed as if having to play one of the tallest teams in the tournament on their floor in front of a building filled with 15,000 rowdy fans to win the gold medal could prove to be a little too overwhelming for the young Americans. However, just the opposite occurred, as a gutsy and poised effort from Team USA resulted in a 81-64 victory, and the team’s first World Championship since 1994.

FIBA Durant & Team USA Golden In TurkeyOnce again, the story of the game was the play of Kevin Durant. Continuing where he left off in the semi-finals against Lithuania, Durant got the U.S. off to a hot start by knocking down his first three shots and scoring eight of the team’s first 12 points. Turkey’s Hedo Turkoglu responded in a big way, going on a 8-2 personal scoring run to hand the Turks a 15-14 advantage with a little more than four minutes to play in the period. The United States then turned up the defensive intensity, holding Turkey to just one basket in the remaining minutes for a 22-17 lead at the end of the quarter.

Russell Westbrook, who proved to be a spark plug throughout the tournament, started the second quarter off by successfully converting a three-point play. After the United States’ offense stalled, going without a point for a three-minute stretch in the frame, Durant once again showed why he was the best player in the tournament. The scoring machine  rolled off nine straight points, including two three-pointers to push the lead to 10 points, which held up at half-time.

The proverbial sports dagger was placed in the hearts of the Turkish collective when, who else but Kevin Durant, knocked down two straight shots from downtown to start the second half. Durant then gestured to the crowd, letting them know that he had no intention of leaving the building without a championship. From there, the Turks were never able to cut the lead down to single digits, and a continued spirited defensive effort in the fourth quarter sealed the deal.

With the win, the United States ends a 16-year drought at the FIBA World Championship. The successful tournament run is the result of long-term plan put in place by USA Basketball Director Jerry Colangelo and Coach Mike Krzyzewski. Krzyzewski earned his first World Championship after his previous two appearances ended in bronze medals.

In the future, this tournament may very well be remembered as the foundation of a legendary career for Kevin Durant. While players like Michael Jordan, Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant were already established superstars prior to having success on the international stage, Durant was just on the cusp after a tremendous NBA season that saw him become the youngest player to ever win a scoring title. Now, with his success in Istanbul, Durant appears to be on his way to becoming a household name. The pressure was put on his shoulders, and he responded like the great players do – with a championship. Durant’s play also made him the obvious recipient of the Naismith Trophy for tournament MVP.

Also not to be forgotten are the unsung heroes of the tournament: the scrappy defense of Russell Westbrook, the efficient production of Kevin love, the rebounding and fast-break ignition of Lamar Odom, and the sharpshooting of Eric Gordon. The truth is, everybody on this team deserves glory for what happened in Turkey. A player like Danny Granger, who scores 25 to 30 points a night for the Indiana Pacers, was simply a role player for Team USA in Istanbul. The way he handled his role on the team is an example of the kind of spirit that enabled the 12 men who made the trip to come home with the hardware.

Now the wait begins for an all-new NBA season, which tips off on October 26th. Be sure to keep checking Eastbay for more basketball coverage.

images via Yahoo

FIBA: Team USA, Durant Golden In Turkey

FIBA: USA, Turkey To Clash For Gold

FIBA USA Turkey Clash For Gold Durant Turkoglu

words_Brandon Richard

It was a tale of two games in the FIBA World Championship semi-final matchups on Saturday. The United States scored a relatively easy victory over the team from Lithuania to advance to their first World Championship final since 1994. On the other side of the bracket, the hometown Turks edged out Serbia in the most dramatic of games for an opportunity to play for their first gold medal. Saturday’s results set up what some reporters are calling the biggest sporting event in the history of Turkey.

FIBA USA Turkey Clash For GoldThe simple way to explain the United States victory would be by naming one man – Kevin Durant. Lithuania couldn’t find an answer for Durant, as he scored a United States record 38 points, lifting the U.S. to an 89-74 victory.  The defense of Andre Iguodala was another huge factor, leading the charge in holding Lithuania’s Linas Kleiza to 1-of-11 shooting. Also key for the U.S. were Lamar Odom, who posted a double-double, and the scrappy Russell Westbrook. For the second straight game, the quickness and explosiveness of Westbrook disrupted guard play on the other side. However, all signs point back to Durant, who had a dagger anytime Lithuania looked like they wanted to get themselves back into the game.

For Turkey, they probably couldn’t have drawn up a more storybook ending to their semi-final matchup with Serbia. After trailing Serbia for the better part of three quarters, things looked like they were heading downhill for the Turks in the fourth quarter. Serbia held as much as an eight-point lead in the fourth, when Milos Teodosic connected on a three-pointer with 5:38 left to play.

However, Turkey would go on a 12-3 run in the next two minutes to find themselves ahead by a point at the 3:30 mark. A few intense possessions were exchanged between the teams, and what appeared to be the game winner came when Serbia’s Novica Velickovic converted a layup to give his team an 82-81 lead with just four second left to play. Turkey then called a time out, which advanced the ball to midcourt. Out of the time out, what looked like a blown defensive assignment allowed Hedo Turkoglu to find Kerem Tunceri with a bounce pass for a game-winning layup with just .5 second left to play. Serbia’s buzzer-beater attempt was denied by a Semih Erden block. Turkey had pulled off a miracle to advance to the gold medal game in front of their fans.

These two victories pair the United States and Turkey together for a clash in what is sure to be a raucous environment. A team filled with young and inexperienced players, the U.S. will have to overcome a spirited effort from an undefeated Turkish team that does not want to disappoint their fans.

The key to gold for the United States: Kevin Durant. As great as Durant has been, we sometimes forget that he’s just 21 years old. Will the big playoff atmosphere experienced in the series against the Lakers earlier this year help him block out the jeers from this crowd?

The key to gold for Turkey: Utilizing their distinct size advantage. To this point, the Americans have effectively dealt with their lack of size by getting big play from Lamar Odom and Kevin Love. However, at times, Turkey will put four guys on the floor that are 6-foot-10 or taller. Can that style stump Coach K and the “B-Team?”

Find out when the United States takes on Turkey at 2 p.m. on Sunday.

images via Yahoo

FIBA: Team USA, Durant Golden In Turkey

Sneaker Watch: FIBA Oddities Edition

words_Nick DePaula

One thing I’ve learned over the past few weeks is that the FIBA World Championships have a way of combining sneakers and team colors from throughout the industry that have no business being in the same sentence. Nike Basketball is putting a lot behind the new Hyperdunk 2010 and Hyperfuse, and adidas is pushing their new adiZero line thanks to the lightning-quick play of Derrick Rose, so of course it would make perfect sense then that a signature shoe who’s namesake is skipping the tournament entirely, in colorways nicknamed “USA” and “Miles Davis,” was spotted in a Brazil vs. Spain game, for example.

And unlike college teams matching sneakers in unison, or highly-touted pros in the NBA each wearing their very own player exclusive model with exact pantone accents, the FIBA games enter into some weird middle ground where there’s simply a blatant disregard for matching altogether.

Brazil’s Alex Garcia guards Spain’s Juan Carlos Navarro in this awkwardly clashing matchup of the Zoom Kobe V. The “China” Zoom Kobe V wouldn’t make team sense either for Navarro, but at least they’d match.

For some reason, the USA-themed Zoom Kobe V has been a hugely popular choice among players specifically not on the U.S. team. Here we have Ali Mahmoud of Lebanon getting stuffed at the rim by Spain’s Fran Vasquez, who is wearing what appear to be the ultimate adidas-Pro Model-turned-Grant Hill-tribute.

New Zealand’s Thomas Abercrombie, also a huge fan of America apparently.

By far my favorite moment of country confusion and the best sneaker sighting of the tournament was the awkwardly harsh and multiple seasons old “Stars & Stripes” TS Pro Models worn by France’s Mickael Gelabale. I can’t really explain this one.

Taking things a step even further, Brazil’s Alex Garcia was also seen wearing the “United We Rise” Zoom Kobe V. A second non-matching, yet U.S.-themed sneaker from Garcia in a tournament of nations! Perhaps somebody at Nike could’ve just ordered him a pair of iDs. Slovenia’s Primoz Brezec wasn’t exactly gifted a shiny new Hyperdunk 2010 or Zoom Hyperfuse apparently, as he’s sticking with the 2007 Huarache Elite.

Matching obviously is of no importance here – even for a player who’s country has an exclusive colorway of the Hyperdunk 2010 that not one player has worn – as Brazilian Center Tiago Splitter is seen in the White/Black/Red version of the same model.

And lastly, this is actually a shoe that was made specifically for Leandro Barbosa to wear in the World Basketball Championships and that features the Brazilian flag along the tongue, and still doesn’t match the team’s uniform. I have no idea why the lighter shade of blue on his adidas adiZero Infiltrate don’t quite match his uniform’s royal accents, but then again, that seems to be a common theme for players representing all brands in this tournament.

FIBA: Team USA, Durant Golden In Turkey

FIBA: Team USA Advances To Semis

FIBA Team USA Advances To Semis

words_Brandon Richard

FIBA Team USA Advances To SemisPrior to the quarterfinal matchup between the United States and Russia, head coaches Mike Krzyzewski and David Blatt exchanged some less-than-friendly words through the media. The source of the mini war-of-words? A disagreement over whether or not controversy marred the 1972 Munich Olympic Gold Medal Final between the same two teams. While the verbal exchanges were making headlines prior to the game, both coaches had their teams prepared for an opportunity to move onto the semifinals of the 2010 FIBA World Championship. In the end, it was Coach Krzyzewski left with the upper hand, as his team pulled away to beat Russia 89-79.

The game was as physical and well-contested as it was expected to be. An early seven points from Kevin Durant helped the United States jump out to a quick 15-9 advantage, but a big quarter by New York Knick Timofey Mozgov helped Russia keep it close. A 7-0 run from the Russians gave them a three-point lead with a little over a minute to play in the frame. Scoring from Durant and Stephen Curry helped the U.S. even things up at 25 after the first quarter.

Russia assumed control of the game early in the second quarter. During the first five minutes, Russia outscored the United States 10-5 to take a 35-30 lead. After a timeout, the United States countered with a 12-0 run of their own led by big plays from Andre Iguodala and Derrick Rose. Exchanging a few more buckets with the remaining time in the half, Team USA emerged with a slim 44-39 advantage.

The competitive level of play was maintained through the first half of the third quarter. With about six minutes left to play in the period, the United States had only managed to increase their lead by a single point, holding on to a 53-47 lead. Then, Russell Westbrook took over. Sometimes criticized for his one-speed, seemingly out-of-control style of play, Westbrook cranked up the effort on defense, forcing multiple turnovers that resulted in easy fast-break points. Additional offensive contributions from Chauncey Billups and Lamar Odom helped the United States build a 70-56 lead at the quarter.

Though Russia refused to roll over and let the United States coast to a lopsided victory, they simply had no answer for Kevin Durant. The heralded shooter collected 10 of his overall 33 points in the fourth quarter to shut the door on the victory. After leading by as many as 18 points, Team USA took their foot off the gas just a little toward the end to advance to the semifinals with a 10-point victory over Russia.

Thursday’s win moves the United States into a semifinals matchup with Lithuania. Lithuania, who advanced with a somewhat shocking blowout win over Argentina, suffered a defeat to the U.S. by a 16-point margin in a warm-up game in August. What some may not remember about that game is that Lithuania led 29-28 at halftime after the U.S. shot just 29 percent from the field. The U.S. men certainly don’t want to have to overcome that kind of start once against Turkey.

Watch the United States take on Lithuania at 12 p.m. EST tomorrow.

images via USA Basketball

FIBA: Team USA, Durant Golden In Turkey

FIBA: Team USA Routs Angola

FIBA Team USA Routs Angola

words_Brandon Richard

FIBA Team USA Routs AngolaAfter sleepwalking through their last two games in group play, Team USA took the court Monday for their first game in the knockout rounds. The Americans looked like a team ready to bring back a gold medal, as they scored a lopsided 121-66 over Angola to advance to the FIBA quarterfinals. Senior member Chauncey Billups lead a well-balanced U.S. attack with 19 points and four assists.

The United States won the opening tip-off for the first time in the tournament. A Billups three-pointer and Kevin Durant fast-break dunk helped the U.S. jump out to a 5-0 start. The game quickly got out of hand when the same tandem knocked down consecutive three-pointers later in the quarter to push the lead to 22-7. Continuing their high level of play on both ends of the floor, the Americans ended the quarter with the 33-13 lead.

Forwards Rudy Gay and Kevin Love got things started for the United States in the second quarter. The two combined for the team’s first 11 points of the period and helped make it known that the U.S. had no intentions of holding back after jumping out to the big lead. More hot shooting from Billups and Durant gave the Americans a 65-33 advantage at the half.

Not particularly known for his long-range shooting, Derrick Rose knocked down consecutive three-pointers to start the scoring for the United States in the second half. That only tells part of the story, as Team USA shot 6-of-9 from three-point range in the quarter to push the lead to 35 points at the buzzer. The story remained the same in the fourth quarter, where the Americans outscored Angola 30-10 to cap off a dominant performance.

In addition to the hot hand of Chauncey Billups, the United States got 17 points apiece from Durant, Gay and Eric Gordon. The team shot 52 percent from the field, 47 percent from three-point range and committed just five turnovers in the game. Perhaps pleasing Coach Mike Krzyzewski the most was the team’s 30 assists on 41 field goals. He praised his group for playing sharp and unselfish.

The Americans now look toward a quarterfinals match-up with Russia that promises to be a much closer contest. The Russians have  5-1 FIBA record, with their lone loss coming to a tough Turkey team. That game can be seen on Thursday morning at 11 a.m. on ESPN.

images via USA Basketball