Hedo Turkoglu, Goran Dragic keep helping their national teams to victories at World Championship

The Phoenix Suns in the FIBA World Championship just keep on rolling, as Goran Dragic and Slovenia and Hedo Turkoglu and Turkey each won a nail-biter in Wednesday’s action.

Turkey’s 79-77 victory over Puerto Rico clinched the hosts the top seed in Group C. Slovenia is guaranteed the No. 2 slot out of Group B after holding off Brazil, 80-77.

The two Suns are now a combined 7-1 in pool play, with that only loss of course being Slovenia’s defeat at the hands of the Americans.

The biggest positive from a Phoenix perspective in Turkey’s win one was the return of Hedo Turkoglu’s jump shot. Turkoglu entered the game shooting 8-for-34 (23.5 percent) from the field and 4-for-20 from distance (20 percent) in the tournament, but in this one he went for a team-high 16 points on 6-for-11 shooting and 4-for-6 marksmanship from deep.

The Suns need Turkoglu to be a deadly shooter for this “no power forward” experiment to work. Hedo has fallen in love with the long ball in this tournament, but for once it was OK since he was draining them.

He also chipped in with a team-high-tying five assists as one of the main distributor’s for Turkey. That is a positive, and it would be even more positive to see him rely less on the three in games against players he should be able to beat off the dribble or post up.

Turkey (4-0) trailed Puerto Rico (1-3) by seven at halftime, but a pair of 7-0 runs helped them close the gap to 1 at the end of three. Turkey then started the fourth quarter on a 10-0 spurt buoyed by its boisterous crowd and held off a furious Puerto Rico rally when Angel Vassallo came up short on a potential game-winning three in the final seconds after hitting a pair of treys in the final minute to make things close.

Turkey’s home-court advantage will clearly be a factor moving on in the tournament. If Hedo can continue to shoot better than 50 percent while distributing for his teammates, Turkey has a great shot at earning a medal.

Dragic takes a backseat as Slovenia cruises to second

Playing against his former Suns teammate Leandro Barbosa, Goran Dragic played more of a supporting role in Slovenia’s victory over Brazil.

The Dragon scored 10 points on 3-for-7 shooting in 31 minutes while grabbing two boards, dishing no assists and turning the ball over four times. Meanwhile, Leandro Barbosa followed up his 5-for-18 performance against Team USA with a 6-for-18 shooting night (for 12 points) in this one. At least with Brazil he gets to keep jacking them up.

Despite Dragic not exactly being The Dragon in this one, Slovenia (3-1) managed to stave off Brazil (2-2) for an important victory. Most analysts figured Brazil would be the No. 2 team from this group, but that instead will be Slovenia, a country that should improve to 4-1 in pool play with an easy one next against Iran. Such seeding could set them up for a bit of a run in the elimination round.

Slovenia ran out to a 14-point lead at halftime behind a big first half from Primoz Brezec and led by 17 in the early moments of the fourth quarter.

But Brazil, Team USA’s toughest competition to date in pool play, stormed back with a 15-0 run to cut the deficit to two with under five to go. Jaka Lakovic (who would have the greatest NBA Jam name ever, by the way) answered with a pair of threes to stretch the advantage to eight and Brazil never got close enough to attempt a game-tying shot.

Up next: Turkey finishes off pool play Thursday with an 11 a.m. MST game against China (1-3) on NBA TV. Slovenia gets Iran (1-3) on Thursday at 9 a.m.

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Tags: FIBA World Championship Goran Dragic Hedo Turkoglu Slovenia Turkey

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