ISTANBUL — Backed by a home crowd that just won’t stop singing, Turkey continues to roll through this tournament. And at this point, there’s no doubt that they have an excellent chance to win gold on their home floor come Sunday.
To get that chance, they’ll have to beat Serbia on Saturday night. But they should be strong favorites to do so after crushing Slovenia in the quarters, 95-68.
This looked like another one of those all-offense games early on, with each team getting off to a hot start. But Turkey stayed hot while holding Slovenia scoreless on its last seven possessions of the first quarter. The resulting 10-0 run gave them a 13-point lead heading into the second, and they had yet to use their vaunted 2-1-2 zone defense.
They finally went to the zone midway through the second quarter, with a big frontline of Kerem Gonlum (6-foot-10), Oguz Savas (6-foot-10) and Semih Erden (6-foot-11).
And that was nothing, because a couple of possessions later, they brought in Hedo Turkoglu to play shooting guard. So, with Ender Arslan at the point, they had a lineup that looked like this: 6-3, 6-10, 6-10, 6-10, 6-11.
That is HUGE. And all of those guys, with the exception of Savas, move well. The big Turkey zone was not used all that much on Wednesday, but it can be a dangerous defensive weapon in the final rounds of this tournament.
It certainly helps to shoot well against the zone. And Slovenia didn’t nearly as well from 3-point range on Wednesday (8-for-23) as they did on Sunday against Australia (16-for-33).
But high-post play is another key component. If you can get the ball into the middle of the zone (via dribble or pass), you will likely have an open shot or an open teammate under the basket. Boris Diaw was able to beat the zone a few times out of the high post on Sunday, and Slovenia did it on occasion on Wednesday.
Still, whether they’re playing man or zone, the Turkey defense is tough to crack. Slovenia shot just 36 percent from the field for the game, having shot 49 percent in its six games prior. This was the fifth most efficient offense in the tournament through Tuesday, and it got shut down.
The Turkey offense was another story. The home team simply couldn’t miss on Wednesday. They shot a ridiculous 18-for-25 in the first half and didn’t cool off much (14-for-23) in the second half.
- Turkoglu took just five shots, but he dished out a game-high seven assists. Ersan Ilyasova got his stroke back, leading the way with 19 points on 7-for-9 from the field.
- Three days after turning his ankle against France, Turkey point guard Kerem Tunceri seemed to be moving well. He scored 10 points and dished out four assists in 20 minutes of action.
- The Celtics have a pretty good post passer in Erden. He had three assists in this game, and two of them were pretty slick. One was a touch pass from the high post to Ilyasova in the corner for a three. The other was a high-low dish to Savas for a layup.
- I wrote on Sunday how Slovenia was very happy to make it to the final eight. And they’ve still got a chance to move up. They’ll play Spain in the first consolation bracket game on Friday. And the winner of that game would play the winner of the other consolation bracket game for fifth place on Saturday.
- Once again, the Turkish crowd was as big a story as the play on the floor. The singing lasts from an hour before game time until after the players have left the floor. And tonight, there was even singing in the mix zone (the post-game interview area).