Myles Turner drives against Semih Erden (Turkey) during the Group E match against Turkey at the 2019 FIBA World Cup on Sept. 3, 2019 in Shanghai, China.
For three quarters Tuesday, Turkey never let the U.S. men’s basketball team pull away in their group-stage game at the FIBA World Cup in Shanghai.
Then, with 12.3 seconds remaining, Turkey went up 81-79 to take its first lead.
Only some clutch free throws kept the U.S. from losing its first game in a major tournament with NBA players since 2006.
First it was Jayson Tatum, who went 2-for-3 with 0.1 seconds remaining to force overtime. Then, after Turkey led by as much as five points in OT, Khris Middleton hit the game-tying and then game-winning free throws with 2.1 seconds remaining as Team USA held on to win 93-92.
The win secured the U.S. a spot in the second group stage, while also keeping the Americans undefeated in major tournaments since the semifinals of the 2006 World Cup.
Coming off a 21-point win over the Czech Republic in the World Cup opener Sunday, the U.S. faced a much stiffer test against Turkey, a team led by NBA players Furkan Korkmaz (Philadelphia 76ers), Ersan Ilyasova (Milwaukee Bucks) and Cedi Osman (Cleveland Cavaliers).
Though the U.S. came out strong, going 6-for-9 from the perimeter in the first quarter and at one point leading 41-26 in the second quarter, Turkey never let the Americans build too big of a lead. Turkey stayed within five at halftime, trailing just 47-42, and tied the game for the first time with less than two minutes remaining in the third.
That led to a tense fourth quarter, with only Tatum’s last-second free throws keeping Team USA alive.
In overtime, the Americans erased a five-point deficit via a 7-0 run, and then benefited from four missed free throws by Turkey with less than 10 seconds remaining. Trailing 92-91, Tatum grabbed a rebound and hit Middledon on the fast break, leading to a foul. Middleton then hit both of his free throws, and his Bucks teammate Ilyasova missed a contested 3-pointer as time expired.
Point guard Kemba Walker led Team USA with 20 points and 11 assists. His Boston Celtics teammate Tatum added 16 points and a team-high 11 rebounds, while Brooklyn Nets guard Joe Harris also scored 16 points for the U.S.
With the win, the U.S. sits atop Group E with one game remaining Thursday against Japan. A win in that game would secure the top position in the group, though the top two teams in Group E each advance to the second group stage.
The Group E leaders join the Group F leaders in Group K for the second round-robin stage, a four-team group that is likely to include reigning NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and Greece.
The top two teams from each second-round group move to the knockout round, with the medal round scheduled for Sept. 15.