ISTANBUL, TURKEY — For the second time in as many nights, and just as he had in virtually every game at the 2010 World Championship, Kevin Durant (Oklahoma City Thunder) put the USA on his back offensively and coupled with the team’s devastating defense, the USA stormed to an impressive 81-64 victory over Turkey to capture the 2010 FIBA World Championship title.
Durant’s 28 points propelled the Americans to their first World Championship gold medal finish since 1994 as the USA finished a perfect 9-0 in Istanbul, Turkey. With the world title, the U.S. collected the automatic qualifying berth for the 2012 London Olympic Games.
“We didn’t have an identification. They were called the ‘B Team’. I think that’s over with,” said USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelgo. “I think they established who they are. Kevin Durant, welcome to the international stage in terms of your ability as a player. That was great for him because he’s such a terrific young man. “So a great job by everyone involved. It’s great for our program. We go from here.”
Durant was named MVP of the World Championship after averaging 22.8 ppg., 6.1 rpg., and shooting 55.6 percent from the field, 45.6 percent from 3-point and 91.2 percent from the foul line.
The USA’s golden effort in addition to Durant’s contributions featured for the second consecutive night a double-double of 15 points and 11 rebounds from Lamar Odom (Los Angeles Lakers) and 14 points from Russell Westbrook (Oklahoma City Thunder).
“This is the best. This is the best,” said USA head coach Mike Krzyzewski (Duke University). “With this group, they really have represented our country, USA Basketball so well. Such a young group. They played with enthusiasm. They played great defense throughout.
“Not much was expected. I shouldn’t say that. They’re always expecting a lot. But most people didn’t think we could win. But they kept getting better. … “We had such big bench contributions. I’m just so happy, so fulfilled. This is as good as it gets right now.”
The first half was a tough, physical contest where no points came easy. The two teams were whistled for a combined 23 personal fouls that resulted in Turkey shooting 11-for-16 from the charity stripe while the U.S. went 10-for-11.
Behind eight points including two 3-pointers from Durant the U.S. took an early 14-9 lead. Turkey stormed back and behind a pair of threes by Hidsyet Turkoglu posted an 8-0 run to move in front 17-14 with 3:28 left in the opening quarter.
Durant stopped the assault when he connected on his third 3-pointer of the quarter to even the score at 17. After Durant made a highlight reel block on a Turkey fast break at the other end, Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors) did what he does and drained a three, and after Westbrook added a pair of free throws with 1.1 seconds left in the quarter, the U.S. had a 22-17 lead after the first 10 minutes.
Holding a 27-21 lead early in the second quarter, Durant struck again and, while adding a pair of 3-pointers, he posted the USA’s next nine points in a span of 2:55 to push the U.S. ahead 36-26.
From there the U.S. lead fluctuated between 10 and seven points and at halftime the U.S. went to the locker room possessing a 42-32 lead.
Whatever hope Turkey had to get back in the game quickly was shot down when Durant opened the third quarter with a pair of 3-pointers and when Odom added an offensive put back the Americans lead was up to 50-32 .
Following a 9-2 run by Turkey that reduced the U.S. advantage to 11, 52-41, with 4:08 to play in the third quarter, Rudy Gay (Memphis Grizzlies) swished a jumper in the lane and one minute later Westbrook found nothing but net from behind the 3-point arc and just that quick the U.S. lead was back to 16.
Turkey continued to battle with the encouragement of its partisan capacity crowd and heading into the final 20 minutes the game was still in question even though the U.S. was leading 61-48.
A 9-2 USA offensive run that was started by a pair of fast break layups from Derrick Rose (Chicago Bulls) and finished by an Odom 3-pointer and then a fast break basket off a picture perfect pass from Rose left the USA fully in charge 70-50 with 7:00 to play.
Turkey never really challenged the U.S. again as the Americas marched in for the memorable 81-64 win.
Although badly outsized by the Turks, the U.S. work ethic nonetheless helped it to a 42-31 advantage on the glass and to 15 offensive boards.
The all out USA defense chased, harassed and frustrated Turkey into 36.4 percent (20-55 FGs) shooting for the game and 14 turnovers.
In Sunday’s bronze medal game, Lithuania (7-1) handled Serbia (6-3) 99-88 as Toronto Raptors forward Linas Kleiza, who the U.S. limited to 4 points and 1-for-11 shooting in Saturday’s semifinal, scored 33 to lead Lithuania. Houston Rockets forward Luis Scola recorded 22 points and 11 rebounds to help lead Argentina (7-2) to an 86-81 win over Spain (5-4) to claim fifth place at the World Championship.
The 2010 USA World Championship Team assistant coaches are Syracuse University’s Hall of Fame coach Jim Boeheim, Portland Trail Blazers head coach Nate McMillan and Toronto Raptors head mentor Jay Triano.
Box scores, stats, additional quotes and photos available at www.usabasketball.com.
Courtesy of USA Basketball