The United States nearly suffered a loss at the hands of Turkey in the FIBA World Cup on Tuesday, with the Americans needing overtime to get away with a 93-92 win.
Team USA needed a lot of help in the end to get the win, as it was behind with just seconds to go both in regulation and overtime.
Missed Free Throws Doom Turkey
Ersan Ilyasova, who led Turkey with 23 points, made two baskets in the final minute of regulation to give Turkey the lead with just 12.3 seconds remaining. But Jayson Tatum drew a foul on a three-pointer and proceeded to make two of his three free throws to tie the game at 81, sending the contest to overtime.
Turkey then proceeded to have the best of the play for most of the extra period. Team USA came back from five points down to take a 91-89 lead. A Cedi Osman drive and free throw gave Turkey a one-point lead, and after a defensive stop, the Turks had the ball with less than 10 seconds remaining.
Joe Harris then fouled to send Turkey to the line. But under international rules, the fact that Harris made no play at the ball made it an intentional foul, which meant Turkey would get two free throws and the ball, and nearly all hope seemed to be lost for the Americans.
But Dogus Balbay missed two free throws to keep the United States in the game. Osman was then fouled after the ball was inbounded, and proceeded to miss two more free throws, leaving the lead at one point.
Jayson Tatum grabbed the rebound and got the ball to Khris Middleton, who was fouled while driving to the basket with 2.1 seconds on the clock. Middleton made both free throws, and a last-ditch shot by Turkey was no good, handing Team USA its 44th straight win in World Cup and Olympic play.
Middleton led the United States with 15 points, while Kemba Walker added 14.
Issues Apparent in USA World Cup Squad
The victory guaranteed that Team USA would advance to the second round of the FIBA World Cup, even with one more first round game vs. Japan still to come on Thursday. But despite the fact that the United States has won its first two games, there will be concerns about the team coming out of Tuesday’s close call.
The United States is weakest on the interior, and if anyone was unsure whether this could be exploited, Ilyasova made that clear with his big game against the Americans. Team USA might also have an injury issue, as Tatum sprained his left ankle during the final seconds of overtime on Tuesday.
But despite those worries, the United States remains the odds-on favorite to win the FIBA World Cup for the third straight time. FanDuel Sportsbook rates Team USA as a -180 favorite to win the tournament ahead of Serbia (+290), with Greece (+950) and Spain (+1400) also in contention.