Game Day Preview: Experienced Turks Like it Slow

Game Day Preview: Experienced Turks Like it Slow

Watch the Airbnb Boomers Round of 16 clash against Turkey LIVE and EXCLUSIVE on ABC at 3:55AM AEST Monday 8 September.

By Paulo Kennedy - Guest Writer during the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup.

So the Australians - having made a tough but I think correct decision to rest players against Angola – are all set up for a run to the medal rounds, right?

Not so fast. While the Airbnb Boomers now avoid the USA until the semi-finals, this is the FIBA Basketball World Cup, and wins aren’t handed out lightly, particularly in knockout rounds.

That’s a lesson Turkey knows well.  In the past three world cups they have played in 12 games decided by single figures, including one of the great semi-finals against Serbia in 2010.

This Turkish outfit is not the same daunting version as four years ago, when they had a ferocious home crowd, Hedo Turkoglu in breathtaking form and Ersan Ilyasova playing Robin to his Batman.

Regardless, eight players return from the silver medal winning team, all of them 27 or over, so an elimination game against the mostly inexperienced Aussies will present few fears.

That’s a good thing for the Boomers, who have a chance to knock their older opponents out of their comfort zone with some relentless pressure from the first tip.

While point guards Kerem Tunceri and Ender Arsalan are reliable players, having spent their lives in European basketball they are not accustomed to aggressive full-court pressure like Australian guards.

With little ball-handling in the large Turkish frontcourt, the Boomers must replicate the intensity they showed in the first half against Lithuania.

New Zealand showed, before their late-game implosion, showed just how uncomfortable the Turks are in a fast-paced game, and that was simply running off rebounds.

There are also excellent opportunities for secondary breaks. With the Turkish perimeter players not possessing great leg speed, their bigs retreat deep into the key in transition.

That means open shots on reversals for Dave Andersen on the trail, with the Boomers needing Cam Bairstow and Brock Motum to also make the most of those opportunities.

Once into offence the ball needs to keep moving. Big men like Omer Asik, Oguz Savas and Kerem Gonlum don’t want to be guarding repeat on-balls, and the more there are the more likely the Turks will sit back and protect the paint.

That’s where the Aussies need more than Joe Ingles to be prepared to come off the ball-screen ready to score.

The other area where Turkey’s defence is susceptible is inside-out play, with the sagging defence slow to recover, especially to the top of the key.

This can come about from post feeds, where the vision of Aron Baynes will be important, or from penetration and back-door cuts that the overly aggressive perimeter defence can leave open.

Don’t be surprised if Brad Newley hammers down a big dunk on one of these overplays.

The reality is though, the Turkish defence is well organised in the half-court, so the less often the Boomers rely on running their sets against five set defenders the better.

Having played together for many years, the Turkish offence knows how to pick apart a team that is in rotations, either finding the rolling big man or shooters left naked by the help D.

Where New Zealand had success defending the on-ball was not overcommitting and forcing the guard to make a play.

Arsalan, Tunceri and Sinan Guler are unlikely match-winners in that situation, but if they are allowed to get the ball inside to their rolling big men the points will pile up quickly.

The men the Aussies need to be most careful about are small forwards Emir Preldzic and Cenk Akyol.

Both can make plays if given space, Preldzic leading the team with 11.8 points and 4.2 assists, while Akyol can create a shot in most situations and leads the Turks from long range.

The Tall Blacks shut that pair out for large stretches of their game by not allowing ball movement after the ball-screen, and the Boomers can go a long way towards winning if they are similarly intelligent.

This game comes down to style, because a slow possession-by-possession contest favours the ‘been there, done that-Turks’.

The dogged point guard duo of Matt Dellavedova and Adam Gibson must make life miserable for the Turkish guards, while the likes of Ingles, Newley and Ryan Broekhoff need to be in the passing lanes taking calculated risks.

Once the Aussies get the ball back – whether it be from a turnover, missed shot or even made basket – controlled speed is the key.

The slower Turks will foul to keep the tempo to their liking, and getting into the bonus early will be a huge advantage.

Similarly, not letting the Turkish big men catch their breath as the ball walks up the court will reduce their effectiveness at both ends.

Andrej Lemanis was always taking a gamble playing this style of game internationally, but the performance against Lithuania showed it can work at a very high level.

His players now need to show the courage to play that way in a knockout final.

Lemanis also gambled by resting players and taking third place in Group D, this performance will decide whether it was a calculated risk worth taking.