Throughout the past two weeks of the FIBA World Championship, Turkey has thrashed every team in its path to the semifinals.
Now only Serbia stands in the way of Turkey’s bid to reach the FIBA finals, which will be at stake when the Turks and Serbs get together for an 11:30 a.m. MST Saturday tip off. The game will be carried on ESPN Classic (does that mean we should expect it to be an instant classic?).
In the other semifinal, undefeated Team USA will take on undefeated Lithuania at 9 a.m. on ESPN Classic.
Wayne Winston forecasts a dream USA-Turkey final with the Americans winning by 18 and the Turks 22 in the semifinal round. His ratings have Turkey 25 points better than average (eight better on offense, 17 on defense), just behind Team USA (27 better). Lithuania is +9 and Serbia +3.
ESPN’s Fran Fraschilla also envisions Turkey beating Serbia. Speaking about the Turks, he told Chris Sheridan:
“The one intangible factor they’ve got going for them is they’re playing in front of this incredible home crowd. The energy level of the team is boosted by the fact that these fans, they don’t wait for the team to make things happen, they implore them to make things happen. The team is playing off the fans more than the fans are reacting off the team.”
“On the court, Turkoglu is such a great facilitator of (coach Bogdan) Tanjevic’s offense because if you put a smaller guy on him he can post up, he can shoot it, he’s a great playmaker, and most importantly, what I’ve seen tonight, is the team feeds off his confidence. I’m watching these guys’ faces, and it’s like being in a back-alley street fight with Mr. T on your side. You can see that there’s a reverence for him among his teammates that creates great confidence for them as a team.”
Fraschilla had more to say, but these are the two most salient points of this semifinal, especially as things pertain to the Phoenix Suns.
I can’t even imagine what the atmosphere is going to be like in Istanbul, but it sure is going to be wild. If you think home-court advantage means something in the NBA playoffs, you ain’t seen nothing yet.
As for Turkoglu, after starting off shooting bricks he is slowly starting to hit his stride in the tournament. He ripped France apart with an efficient 20 points in 25 minutes and he facilitated the blowout of Slovenia with seven assists to get his team going.
Although at times he has seemed like a glorified three-point shooter, he’s still a 6-foot-10 guy gracefully running the offense and causing matchup problems. And emotionally he just meets so much to this Turkish basketball team.
Serbia stunned Spain with a thrilling 92-89 victory sealed by a deep Milos Teodosic three. They have been in their share of close games, dropping an 82-81 double overtime decision to Germany and narrowly defeating Argentina 84-82 and Croatia 73-72 before the close call against Spain. Along with Teodosic (11.4 ppg), Thunder center Nenad Kristic (15.2 ppg, 7.5 rpg) and Dusko Savanovic (11.1 ppg) merit watching.
The Serbians have been so good in close games that they figure to have the edge if this one comes down to the wire, but the Turks have been so good at ending games early that I don’t expect that to be the case in this one.
Dragic, Slovenia to finish against Russia for seventh place
Goran Dragic will lead his Slovenian national team into the seventh-place game against Russia.
The Slovenes have dropped a pair to Turkey and Spain, while Russia has lost its past two against Team USA and Argentina.
Goran Dragic hit just 5-of-15 shots, but he got to the line 12 times as well and scored 19 points against Spain, who routed Slovenia in the fourth after a competitive first three quarters.
The Dragon will have one more chance to face a quality team, which Russia certainly is despite its past two losses. The Russians finished second to Turkey in Group C (going 4-1), falling only to the Turks in pool play and dropping New Zealand by 22 in the round of 16 before coming a mere 10 points from toppling mighty Team USA in the quarterfinals.
Russia is led by 7-foot-1 center Timofey Mozgov (signed by the Knicks this offseason), who has averaged 12.2 ppg and 4.6 rpg. Russia also features former KU standout Sasha Kaun (10.4 ppg, 6.3 rpg) and Summer Sun Anton Ponkrashov (6.2 ppg, 5.4 apg).
This should be another good test for Dragic and Slovenia, as they attempt to regain their pool play mojo and cruise to a seventh-place finish.