BILBAO, Spain — They figured it would be simple, that they would just beat up on Turkey like they did Finland a night earlier.
Instead, the Americans were the ones on the ropes for nearly three quarters.
“I guess we felt like last night’s game was pretty easy and tonight was going to be the same way, but Turkey came out and they gave us their punch from the beginning,” forward James Harden said. “We took it and we were sluggish. That second half we played a lot better.”
Kenneth Faried scored 22 points, Anthony Davis all of his 19 in the second half, and the United States rebounded from a rare deficit at halftime to beat Turkey 98-77 on Sunday in the Basketball World Cup.
A night after crushing Finland by 59 in its biggest rout ever while using NBA players in the former world championship, the Americans couldn’t take control against Turkey until early in the fourth quarter after compiling a 17-1 run.
“I think we didn’t come ready to play in the first half and we can’t afford to do that if we want to win a gold medal,” Davis said. “So we’ve got to come out ready to play no matter who we’re playing against.”
The Americans trailed 40-35 at halftime and Turkey led by six early in the third before the Americans could finally get the game into the quicker tempo they prefer and pull away to win the rematch of the 2010 gold-medal game in Istanbul.
But it was a much tougher one than expected after the Americans hammered Finland 114-55 while Turkey was being outplayed for most of its opener by New Zealand before pulling out the victory.
Harden added 14 points for the U.S. and Kyrie Irving added 13, playing extended minutes in the second half while struggling Derrick Rose sat.
It was tied at 59 with 3:10 left in the third before the Americans closed the period with a 7-1 burst to lead 66-60 after Faried’s basket. The U.S. then ran off 10 in a row to open the fourth and open a 76-60 cushion.
The Americans haven’t lost since the semifinals of the 2006 world championship and outside of their victories over Spain in the last two Olympic gold-medal games, haven’t been in danger much since then.