Team USA has talked a good game heading into the FIBA World Cup despite its watered-down roster, but a narrow escape Tuesday showed how difficult a road lies ahead for the U.S. in China.
After Turkey missed four consecutive free throws in the final 10 seconds, Khris Middleton made a pair with 2.1 seconds remaining in overtime to give the U.S. a 93-92 win and avoid its first loss in the preliminary rounds of the World Cup since 1998.
The U.S. had a five-point lead with 1:59 to play in the fourth quarter but watched Turkey go on a 7-0 run to go up 81-79 on Ersan Ilyasova’s tip-in of Cedi Osman’s miss with 12.3 seconds left.
Team USA went for the win on its final possession of regulation, with Middleton firing up a 3-pointer. He missed, but Kemba Walker secured the rebound and got it to Jayson Tatum, who managed to draw a foul from Osman behind the 3-point line at the buzzer.
Turkey stretched out a five-point advantage to open the extra session before the U.S. rallied to take a 91-89 lead on a Tatum layup with 1:50 to play. But Osman converted a three-point play a minute later to put the underdogs back on top.
After a Joe Harris miss, the U.S. got the ball back when Walker drew a charge with 14.6 seconds to play, but Myles Turner turned it over. Harris was called for an intentional foul, sending Dogus Balbay to the line for two. He missed both, but Turkey still had the ball, so Marcus Smart immediately fouled Osman. The Cavaliers forward missed his two shots as well, handing the U.S. one last lifeline that Middleton was able to convert.
The Bucks star led the U.S. with 15 points while Walker added 14. Ilyasova had 23 for Turkey to lead all scorers.
Tatum was injured on the final play, and Team USA told reporters after the game (via ESPN) that the initial diagnosis is a sprained left ankle. He will be reevaluated Wednesday.