USA vs. Turkey

The Americans lost! After a 54-game winning streak in international competition (involving NBA players) dating back to 2006, the Americans lost!

Wait. They won. Ha? What happened two nights ago when USA played Turkey in the FIBA World Cup was one of the most incredible games that I’ve seen.

As time expired at the end of the game, Turkey led, 81-79. But Jayson Tatum was fouled beyond the arc at the buzzer. He converted two of three free throws. The game enters OT. At the end of overtime, Turkey was leading 92-91. They had ball possession and, in a sequence of events, had four attempts at the free throw line. They missed all four. Team USA had ball possession and with two seconds left, Khris Middleton was fouled, converted both free throws, and they escaped with a 93-92 win. 

A sure USA loss (everyone watching it was sure of the outcome) turned into a Harry Houdini-like escape and victory for the Americans.

“It really hurts,” said Turkey’s Furkan Korkmaz. “I think it was in our hands – not their hands.”

Turkey coach Ufuk Sarica added: “I need mental strength to overcome this.”

His facial expressions said it all. He was jumping and smiling in the final seconds when Turkey was about to score the incredible upset. So were most of the pro-Turkey crowd of 18,000 in Shanghai. But when Middleton converted those free throws to reverse the outcome, Sarica was heartbroken.

For Donald Trump’s team, this is good. But it’s also very bad. Because now the world knows how vulnerable this team is. If the world’s 17th-ranked team should have won that game against the world’s best, then noboby’s afraid of the US anymore.

“At the end of the day we won and that’s the biggest thing we can take away, said USA’s Joe Harris. “We can’t look too far ahead. We have to take care of business and see where things stack up.”

True. But the game revealed the inadequacies of this squad. They lack the sheer talent of previous US teams. And when Turkey defended them with a zone defense, they had difficulty scoring. Can you imagine the US facing Serbia, who are even bigger and more talented? 

As a side note, it was good to see a Pinoy in the midst of the game. Filipino referee Bong Pascual, who also officiated during the 2016 Rio Olympics, was one of the referees manning the game.

GILAS. After losing by 46 points against Italy and 59 against Serbia, the critics pounded on our Philippine team.

“What does it serve to the Philippine team to lose by this difference?” said Serbia’s coach Sasha Djordjevic. That’s an embarrassing statement, questioning our right to be part of this 32-nation World Cup. 

How we wished Jordan Clarkson was part of this team. Or Jayson Castro, the 5-foot-10 guard named one of Asia’s best when he led Gilas for seven years. Castro’s speed and three-point shooting are missing. 

On the positive side, what a performance by CJ Perez.

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