World basketball championship favorites the US beat Lithuania 89-74 and hosts Turkey edged Serbia 83-82 on Saturday to reach the final.
Both teams headed into yesterday’s title showdown with 8-0 records after US forward Kevin Durant scored 38 points to sink the Lithuanians and Turkey overcame an eight-point deficit to beat Serbia in the last seconds of a rip-roaring contest.
Serbia were leading 82-81 with 4.5 seconds remaining when Turkey playmaker Kerem Tunceri went through for a layup which sent the 18,000 crowd in the Sinan Erdem Dome into raptures and completed a spectacular comeback.
The Serbians were 72-64 up when their perimeter shooting started to let them down midway through the final quarter and the Turks found their range at the other end.
With top long-range shooters Hidayet Turkoglu and Ersan Ilyasova man-marked, Tunceri scored eight unanswered points to turn the tide and force the late drama.
“I’m overwhelmed and I can’t believe this. We fought really hard and never gave up, we fought for Turkey and our fans and we made it,” Tunceri told reporters.
“We will savor this win for a couple of hours and then try to focus on the final. There was an element of luck in the last shot because we almost lost possession before I got it in a wide open position for the layup,” he said.
Phoenix Suns forward Turkoglu scored 16 points, Omer Onan chipped in with 14 and Tunceri had 12 points and five assists for Turkey, whose tight defense produced five steals more than the Serbians and four fewer turnovers.
Oklahoma Thunder’s Durant, coming off his third professional season, has been the US driving force throughout the tournament and produced another effervescent performance in the semi-final.
Lithuania led 11-9 early on but the US went on a 12-0 run to open up a 23-12 advantage by the end of the first quarter on the back of 17 points by Durant.
Lithuania trailed by 15 points at halftime and cut the deficit to 50-40 early in the third quarter.
However, they had no answer to Durant’s speed, skill and lethal long-range shooting which steered the US to a 79-64 lead midway through the fourth.
“It’s not about me, it’s about them and the coach [Mike Krzyzewski] who did a great job sitting me down and telling me what he really needs from me on the court,” Durant said.
The US were also propelled by 13 points and 10 rebounds from Lamar Odom and 12 points by Russell Westbrook.
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