Last night Turkey played against Latvia which was the last game of the group stages for their EuroBasket 2017 campaign. Frankly speaking, Latvia “outwitted, outplayed & outlasted” the Turkish side.
Lets first off look at Latvia and last nights game. OK, Latvia come from the former Russian (USSR) grounds and while their federation was initially established back in 1923 they did manage to win one EuroBasket way back in 1935 when the game was in its infant years in Europe. With this put aside, from 2001 to 2015 Latvia have not had much success aside from finishing 8th place (2001 & 2015 respectively). While this is the case, on a national team level with regards to how the talent development has grown in this small country in comparison to Turkey is a story to be researched in depth. The current president of the Latvian Basketball Federation Valdis Voins (president since 2011) has initiated a plan to export talent and has programs set in place that allow players to grow. Seven out of the current twelve players of the Men’s national team are playing outside of the national Latvian league and have been playing with their current teams for at least 1 season.
LATVIA 89 vs. TURKEY 79
From Start to finish Turkey only managed to lead the game for a whole of 2:50 minutes of the game whereas Latvia held their ground for 35:17 minutes. As mentioned in my previous post concerning the Turkish side the assists and rebounds were a point of critical concern. While Turkey managed to pull more rebounds (32) and managed to score 16 second chance points the fact that they do not effectively share the ball was their downfall on the whole of the game. They only recorded 11 assists in comparison to Latvia’s 28 assists. Added to the fact that Turkey committed 13 turnovers and only produced 22 points off the bench also points out that the production and ball handling of the team were not well managed.
Rotationally speaking I can grasp that Coach Sarıca is trying to win players in the long haul but the short term goals of trying to win target games against Russia, Serbia and lastly against Latvia were sadly lost. Semih Erden did not stand a chance against Porzingis and even with the +7 foot soft touch, three point shooting, shot blocking stretch four off the court, Turkey were lost trying to play ISO ball on offense and could not find a solution on defense against Latvia’s inside rolling set plays nor against the transition baskets. Blums, both the Bertans’ brothers managed to produce and even with Timma fouling out towards the end of the game the Latvian team held off against the home team.
On the Turkish side, while Melih Mahmutoğlu along with Cedi Osman tried to fend off the Latvian scoring they could not get a clean 10 point run throughout the game. While Turkey managed a 7 point run at best, they could not manage to play the open court with both their NBA rookies to be (Cedi Osman & Furkan Korkmaz). On a brighter note I saw a glimpse of growth in Kenan Sipahi, with each opportunity he got he managed to pull good decisions. Sinan Güler while trying to spark the team to me felt lost after a point in the third quarter. As if he knew that pulling an upset against the Latvian side was hopeless. One very big surprise to me was the fact that Melih Mahmutoglu actually channeled his inner Jason Kidd scoring 19 points and grabbing 7 rebounds, +3 more than Semih Erden managed.
Here is a look at the highlights of the game courtesy of FIBA.com:
Again, on the whole when looking at the Turkish national team, the roster of players does amaze me at large. There is no second player that has the same size as Semih Erden, Göksenin Köksal, Barış Hersek, Sertaç Şanlı all are players that had okay seasons with their respective clubs however at a national team level their positions and skills are very much lost (I think that Doğuş Balbay, while an amazing defender has a non-existent shot and its a pity he has not been able to work on his shooting skill since turning pro from the NCAA return).
The modern strategy demands stretching the court with big men that can shoot, athletic players that can not just run and gun but also force deflections at will, bigs that can crash offensive boards and that can manage the garbage plays and set the picks no other players would. The above notions are all the
The stage is set for the Final Phase!
As last nights games concluded the final phase matchups were announced by FIBA as seen in the images below (courtesy of fiba.com – instagram account):
I have to be very honest and state that Turkey have dug another hole and will try to get out of it. So far on the group stages of the tournament Turkey have been all over the place but on average they have the potential to score +19 points per quarter yet when they struggle to be creative (without sharing the ball fully – staying under 35% ball USG) they manage 16 – 17 points. Yet when they manage to be efficient they pull their score potential to +20 points. Consistency is an issue with the rotation and lineup they put on the court.
To me the favorite is SPAIN, as much as I admire the Turkish side.
SPAIN vs. TURKEY
With the assistance and courtesy of TISSOT and the EuroBasket2017 app here is a head to head comparison of the matchup:
I will bypass commenting on the major visible statistics.
One point that makes me think is that similar to Latvia, seven players (all of which are NBA players and have spent one season with their respective franchises) on the Spanish team are playing outside of the ACB.
In comparison, on the Turkish team, aside from two Euroleague champion players (Melih Mahmutoğlu, Barış Hersek), Sinan Güler & Doğuş Balbay which have some level of US/NCAA background as well as high caliber European exposure the remainder of the Turkish team while all compete either at Euroleague of Turkish Basketball Super League status.
One major advantage I see is that that the Turkish team age wise are younger (27 average age) versus Spain (+31 average age). Maybe the advantage of being younger might be a lingering thought that Turkey can use to their advantage. On the other hand an active Pau Gasol even on the bench is instant gold for the Spanish side.
Again if Turkey have a glimmer of hope to try and outplay Spain they need to be consistent in sharing the ball, achieving +17 assists. They also need to do a crazy good job in crashing the offensive boards (+16 off. reb) and pulling off second chance points (+19) if they have thoughts of advancing to play against the winner of the Germany vs. France matchup.
The future is bright for Turkey but this tournament to me is at its closing stages for the 12 Big Men.