Hedo Turkoglu, Turkey knock out Goran Dragic, Slovenia to reach World Championship semifinals

Hedo Turkoglu only scored 10 points and knocked down just a pair of shots, but along with some hot shooting from Bucks forward Ersan Ilyasova he’s the reason Slovenia had no shot at stopping Turkey in the hometown team’s 95-68 quarterfinal drubbing of Goran Dragic’s squad Wednesday in Istanbul.

Behind Hedo’s facilitation, Turkey shot a scorching 66.7 percent from the field, including 58.8 percent marksmanship on their 17 long balls, while holding a Slovenia team that blew out Australia behind 16 three-pointers to just eight three-point makes (34.8 percent) and 35.7 percent shooting overall.

It was a dominant effort to say the least, with Turkey ending the first quarter on a 21-4 run and never letting Slovenia back into the game. It seemed like every shot Turkey threw up during that fateful run found the net, including four back-breaking threes, and after matching Turkey for the first couple minutes Dragon and his mates all of a sudden couldn’t buy a bucket as Turkey essentially ended the game early, potentially confusing Slovenia by starting out in man defense despite being largely a zone team.

Turkoglu facilliated all of this with 10 points, seven assists and four boards. He made Turkey’s offense go, forcing mismatches and then finding open teammates who knocked down shots all night.

Of course in Phoenix he will share the court with perhaps the best facillitator in the NBA, but the so-called Michael Jordan of Turkey is “The Man” on this team. His teammates seemed to look to him make plays and will them to victory. And that crazy crowd certainly didn’t hurt either.

As Turkey started to pull away even in the first quarter it seemed like the crowd would ensure there would be no Slovenian magic on this day. This wasn’t the same Slovenia team that we have seen all tournament. After their nice first few minutes, they seemed almost shell shocked and never could recover.

It certainly didn’t help that Dragic played one of his worse games in the tournament against a Turkey defense that put the heat on him and forced him to work hard. Dragic scored just five points on 1-for-7 shooting and recorded just two boards and two assists as he just couldn’t make anything happen against the Turks.

The only other time Dragic failed to hit more than two shots and score under double digits came in the Aug. 29 game against Team USA, which was of course Slovenia’s only other loss as well as the best team Slovenia played before this one (obviously). It is only two games so you don’t want to jump to conclusions, but it is a bit discouraging that Dragic did not perform better against talented squads gunning for him as a go-to guy. Sure, in Phoenix he does not have such responsibilities at this point in his career, but it would have been nice to see him play better in these big games.

Despite being eliminated from championship competition, Slovenia will face off against the dissapointing Spain squad that fell in a close one to Serbia today in a classification contest on Friday at 8 a.m. MST. This will be another great test for Dragic to play against a very good team (a squad some thought were the favorites of this whole tournament at the start) in a contest that could lead to a shot at a fifth-place finish for Slovenia. It would be nice to see him bounce back and play well in a high-level game, particularly since he may be matched up with Spanish wonderkid Ricky Rubio, whom he got the better of in a EuroBasket game last year.

Turkey, meanwhile, rolls on to the semifinals on Saturday, where they will be matched up against Serbia for a chance at the Finals. This close to the finals and a potential colossal championship game against Team USA, I would expect another sterling effort.

Wayne Winston on FIBAs

Before the game, Wayne Winston ranked Turkey as the second-best team in the tournament to date and Slovenia third (Team USA is first by a wide margin). Entering play today, Turkey was 5.66 points better than average on offense and 15.08 better on defense (20.74 overall); Slovenia was 8.90 better on offense and 4.73 on defense (13.63, just ahead of Brazil’s 13.32). Meanwhile, Team USA is 30.11 better than average (21.74 on offense, 8.37 on defense).

According to a Winston simulation run 10,000 times, Team USA has an 85 percent chance of winning the whole thing, Turkey a 13 percent shot and the six other teams 2 percent combined.

Up next: With the win Turkey advances to the FIBA semifinals against Serbia on Saturday at 11:30 a.m. MST in a game to be televised by ESPN Classic. Slovenia will face off against Spain on Friday at 8 a.m. in a consolation game.

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Tags: FIBA World Championship Goran Dragic Hedo Turkoglu Slovenia Turkey Wayne Winston

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