Even though the overall result of Team USA’s World Cup performance will hang as a disappointment, they were able to take some positives into the final game, defeating Poland to secure a seventh place finish. The United States came out scorching, using a 28-14 first quarter to hold off Poland for the remainder of the game.
One big difference in today’s game was Team USA’s ability to finally hit three pointers. Entering the game shooting just 33% from deep hangs as one of the big reasons they were unable to advance to medal games, but they came away 12-25 tonight, giving them a much needed advantage against a competitive Poland squad.
Though it was shooting that carried Team USA though the first quarter, it was their defense that carried them through the final three when the offense predictably fell back to their tournament standards. To no surprise, Myles Turner was a big factor in Team USA’s defensive presence, picking up all four of their blocks in his 21 minutes of action.
Turner was ineffective during his stint in the first quarter, but brought a different energy to the remainder of the game, inching close to his ability to control the game on both ends which started with a big defensive stop just midway through the second quarter.
Team USA (eventually) came up with the stop on this possession, setting up Turner for a three pointer on the other end. Turner’s activity in this stretch helped the United States close the half strong, but there were a lot of missed opportunities for Turner in the quarter offensively, as was the case with the rest of the game.
Turner finished with seven points, but his 3-9 shooting performance especially showed a lack of touch around the rim tonight. He was even unable to capitalize off of a foul on a near big-time dunk, missing both of his free throws after the attempt. He also led the game in rebounds with eight, though Poland’s ability to limit Team USA on the offensive glass held him to zero on that end.
Today’s game hit right near Turner’s scoring and rebounding averages for the tournament, finishing with 7.6 points per game and 6.8 rebounds. Interestingly, he finished the tournament with zero assists, a potential assist escaping Turner today when Khris Middleton pounded for a bit too long before scoring a bucket early. Turner finished third with 1.8 blocks per game, behind Salah Majri (3.2) and Rudy Gobert (2.1).
Much of the talk coming out of this World Cup has been how to reverse course on Team USA’s disappointing finishing heading into the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. The World Cup roster had its fair share of issues from the outset, however. The team’s makeup, largely due to players continuing to pull out of the trip, left a largely flawed roster in its wake, taking away any real opportunities for versatility against different opponents.
The lack of go-to scoring, the lack of front court versatility, and the lack of shooting can be solved fairly easily with top flight talent, but whether a simple talent upgrade will be enough to return Team USA to gold in 2020 could still be reliant on USA Basketball’s commitment to culture concepts that have allowed European and South American programs in particular to flourish.
For example, could a 2020 roster largely featuring players from this World Cup team still come out on top with the big name additions? Jerry Colangelo “will remember” who sat out this go ‘round, which could point to some level of continuity moving forward. Whether that actually happens or not, there’s a Redeem Team story there for these players to make a mark in Tokyo.
Turner, in particular, spoke of winning a medal in his Twitter rebuke following Team USA’s loss to Serbia on Thursday and there’s good reason to think he could be playing in Tokyo next summer given a largely positive World Cup performance in which he was one of the anchors of much needed defensive units for Team USA. The only real question would be how many top tier players plan to step in for the Olympics, but even if that proves to be everybody, Turner still holds an advantage defensively over most other American bigs that could still lend him an opportunity to make next year’s roster as well.
In the meantime, however, Turner, along with Domantas Sabonis, will now turn their attention to the Indiana Pacers as training camp kicks off in just two weeks on September 28. The Pacers as a team will then head to India as part of the NBA’s India Games to be played in Mumbai on October 4 and 5 against the Sacramento Kings. It will be a whirlwind trip for both Turner and Sabonis, as well as Sacramento’s Bogdan Bogdanovic.