Team USA began their 2019 FIBA World Cup schedule with an 88-67 win over the Czech Republic in Shanghai.
Myles Turner earned the start in this game and recorded 4 points, 7 rebounds, 1 steal, 2 blocks, and 1 turnover. Despite shooting 2-of-7 (28.6%) from the field, he made up for it by making a strong defensive impact that proved to be genuinely difference-making.
It was a slow start for Team USA on the offensive end of the floor. They scored only 17 points while shooting 7-of-18 (38.9%) from the field and 1-of-5 (20%) from deep in the first quarter. Even with a slow offensive start, their defense allowed them to lead 17-14 at the end of the period.
“We still got a lot of work to do. I think it was a good first game,” Myles said. We got the jitters out. Everybody was jacked up, amped to play. But on both sides of the ball, we still got a lot of film to analyze.”
The offensive execution picked up significantly for Team USA after the first quarter. They managed to score 71 points over the final 30 minutes of the game and shot 30-of-57 (52.6%) from the field and 9-of-21 (42.9%) from beyond the arc.
What stayed consistent for Team USA from the start of the game was their defensive impact. Allowing the Czech Republic to score only 67 points is impressive in itself, but they also held the opposition to fewer than 20 points in each quarter.
“Our defensive effort is what is going to win us a lot of games here,” he said. “Offensively, we have plenty of talented guys that are going to figure it out. But defensively, we have to go out there and make an impact.”
An area where Team USA particularly excelled defensively was from inside the arc. They allowed the opposition to shoot a mere 18-of-46 (39.1%) on two-point field goals. A large part of that has to do with the presence that Myles provides as a shot blocker.
A significant amount of success was achieved by Team USA when they deployed Myles into drop coverage when defending pick-and-roll sequences. This often placed the Czech Republic’s ball handlers into compromised situations that ended in errors.
There were two possessions when the ball handler dribbled off the pick and eventually missed an off-balance floater. Myles caused this outcome by being in a position to neutralize the roll man and promoting the low percentage shot. That allowed him to prevent the opposition from making an impact on the offensive glass, too.
A particularly intriguing sequence occurred when a ball handler rejected the screen while Myles was engaged in drop coverage. The on-ball defender remained tight on the ball handler and with Myles preventing a window to pass to the roll man, a bad pass leading to a turnover occurred.
With Myles taking away the driving lane and accounting for the roll man, the situation was made difficult for the ball handler. The on-ball defender capitalized on the circumstances by going over the screen and sufficiently recovering to prompt the ball handler into attempting a contested step-back jumper.
What makes Myles so valuable to Team USA is his ability to clean up situations after mistakes are made on the perimeter. A great example of this occurred when an on-ball defender failed to contain dribble penetration. Myles had to account for both the ball handler and the roll man. All that was left was a pass out that resulted in a miss from the corner.
The opposition did not find success using short rolls against Myles when they tried it because he executed drop coverage with precision. There wasn’t a clear favorable decision for the roll man to make. Myles was in a prime position to contest the catch-and-shoot jumper and grab the rebound.
The burden placed on the Czech Republic’s offense to achieve success using alternative play types to the pick-and-roll was too great to overcome. What made it even more challenging was Myles’ strong impact as a help defender. He was often able to break up plays with proper reads.
With no defensive three-seconds rule to worry about and a center matchup that wasn’t a stretch-five, Myles faced ideal circumstances to protect the paint. His presence made a real impact on the Czech Republic’s offense, especially when they tried to use post-ups.
The impact that Myles made against the Czech Republic’s post-ups was not limited to when he was in help defense. The first possession occurred against an attempt to gather pre-catch positioning with the play ending in a turnover because of a bad passing read. The other play featured a steal that resulted from a successful swipe at the ball.
There was a play that stuck out that should show the rest of FIBA competition to avoid trying to attack Myles going downhill. A cutter from above the break tried to catch him off guard early in a possession when Myles was busy directing his teammates. Despite the cutter making a good read, all it got him was a blocked layup attempt.
The victory over the Czech Republic should serve as a strong foundation for Team USA but their work is far from finished. Their next step will be to maintain their strong defensive impact while getting off to a better start on offense. They will be very difficult to defeat if they can accomplish that.
Team USA is back in action on Tuesday at 8:30 AM EDT when they face Turkey led by Ersan Ilyasova and Furkan Korkmaz.