The Utah Jazz’s Donovan Mitchell and Team USA look to continue their winning ways tomorrow (tonight?) as they face off against Turkey in the FIBA World Cup. Both teams enter the match 1-0. The Americans are coming off a dominant win over the Czech Republic. Donovan Mitchell played a game high 25 minutes and led Team USA in points with 16. His dominant play on both sides of the ball impressed not only his teammates but many national media. The Turks are not to be underestimated themselves as Ersan Ilyasova led the Turkish National Team to a commanding win over Japan.
The Turks will look to get out and run against this Team USA team that wants to slow the game down to allow their athleticism on defense grind the opposing team to a halt. If there is a team identity that the Utah Jazz’s Donovan Mitchell can sink his teeth into, it is one based on defense.
As far as the rest of the Americans go, Kemba Walker and Joe Harris had great games against the Czech Republic. Joe Harris who had been MIA in exhibition games came off the bench and spaced the floor. Kemba Walker put every Czech on skates when he was being asked to create. He has been a lot of fun to watch offensively.
One key weakness that the Turks will look to take advantage of is Team USA’s interior defense. Myles Turner, Mason Plumlee, and Brook Lopez all shared an equal load as they manned the inside. While Myles Turner has been chasing blocks, he finds himself frequently out of position in the pick and roll. Mason Plumlee has the defensive IQ to be where he needs to be, but not necessarily the athletic chops to execute. Brook Lopez can space the floor, but can be a liability when switched on the perimeter.
Look for Turkey to go small ball while running Ilyasova as their center with Cedi Osman playing the Power Forward position. Those two combined for 33 points against Japan. Another person to watch out for is Melih Mahmutoğlu. He is the captain of Ekpe Udoh’s old squad Fenerbahçe. He had 17 points on 7 of 10 shooting in his last outing.
When: Tuesday, September 3rd, 2019. 6:30 AM MDT
Where: Shanghai, China
TV: Livestream on ESPN+
What to watch for
De-fense. De-fense. De-fense.
The headlines from Team USA’s first official game that actually counted was Team USA’s demise was greatly exaggerated. Donovan Mitchell was masterful on both ends. Kemba Walker was a wizard off the dribble. Harrison Barnes, Joe Harris, and Khris Middleton were masterful in spot up situations. Even where Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown struggled, they were dominant on defense. That last word is key: defense.
The Americans can dominate this tournament just as much as past USA teams because of their youth and athleticism. If they are disciplined on defense, they will thrive in transition and run up the score just as they did in the second half against the Czech Republic. The key will be not relying on their offensive chops first, but allowing their defense to fuel their offensive opportunities.
Donovan Mitchell as the Alpha
As Dr. Ishiro Serizawa wisely said when asked if he wanted to make Godzilla humanity’s pet, “No. We will be his.” Team USA will be Donovan Mitchell’s pet. The more they rely on Donovan Mitchell, the further this team will go. That’s because Donovan Mitchell is the one player on this Team USA squad that appears to be an elite player on both sides of the ball. His offense can lift Team USA when they fall in ruts. His passing ability and selflessness can keep teammates involved. His attitude can keep his team engaged. His defense has been weaponized. He looks the part of a top 10 player.
If he continues to show that this isn’t a short term aberration but really him, Team USA will dominate weaker squads and come out victorious against the top teams like Spain, Serbia, and France.
Media reaction to that Donovan Mitchell follow-slam. pic.twitter.com/xQ885JB0wZ— J.A. Adande (@jadande) May 3, 2018
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