It was not pretty, but Team USA, somehow, some way, found a way to win.
Turkey, a major underdog against the NBA-heavy Team USA, didn’t bow down at all in this group stage matchup that tipped off early in the morning for US viewers. They hung with Team USA the entire game, not backing down for one second.
From the opening tip, you might have been able to tell this was going to be a battle. Ersan Ilyasova was trading buckets early with Team USA, and kept Turkey in it early on. Donovan Mitchell struggled offensively in game two of the group stage, finishing the game with 9 points on 3/12 shooting. These nine points came all on three-point attempts, of which he was 3/9. Mitchell also had 4 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 steals. Although Mitchell didn’t have his best game shooting or efficiency-wise, he had a couple key plays that helped will Team USA to victory. He hit a big three with three minutes left that put Team USA up 3, right as Turkey was making a run. Turkey’s Scott Wilbekin hit a big one to square things up, and then Esan Ilyasova, aka Turkish Lebron James, got two big buckets in crunch time to put Turkey up 2. With the clock winding down and facing a huge, embarrassing loss right in the face, Khris Middleton bricked the go-ahead three and the ball went sailing high into the air.
Enter, Spida-Man Mitchell.
Mitchell came flying from out of nowhere and grabbed the offensive board with one hand. He found Jayson Tatum open at the top of the three-point line, who was fouled on the shot with no time remaining. Tatum made 2/3, and sent the game to overtime. Had Mitchell not grabbed that board, we’re having a different conversation about Team USA this morning.
This will only show up as a rebound in the box score for Donovan Mitchell, but it saved the game for Team USA. pic.twitter.com/o1LXoYJto8— SLC Dunk (@slcdunk) September 3, 2019
In overtime, Turkey squandered an opportunity to win the game by missing four straight free-throws, and ultimately paid the price when Khris Middleton made two of his own to put Team USA up 1 for the win.
It was a crazy, stressful finish, but ultimately Team USA came out on top. What a wild ride.
Holy Hell.... if that doesnt make your heart race.... id go to war with any of these guys any night— Myles Turner (@Original_Turner) September 3, 2019
Jayson Tatum injured his ankle on the game-winning assist (FIBA counts assists on passes that lead to free-throws), and had to be helped off the court.
Here's Jayson Tatum's ankle injury at the end of Team USA's win over Turkey. pic.twitter.com/IrUadQz1DE— Chris Forsberg (@ChrisForsberg_) September 3, 2019
Jayson Tatum said his ankle is already feeling better. He left arena wearing a shoe and didn’t have a bad limp.— Brian Windhorst (@WindhorstESPN) September 3, 2019
Hoping for the best for Tatum, another young bright NBA star, and friend of Donovan Mitchell’s.
Team USA will take on Japan in their final game of the group stage Thursday morning.