BEIJING (Reuters) – Holders United States ground out a dramatic 93-92 overtime win against Turkey in the basketball World Cup while Canada were knocked out after a 92-69 drubbing by Lithuania on Tuesday.
The day’s rip-roaring action also produced the first two upsets of the 32-nation tournament in China as Brazil shocked Greece 79-78 while the Dominican Republic stunned Germany 70-68.
Turkey came agonizingly close to staging the shock of the tournament but missed four successive free throws in the final 10 seconds of the contest before Chris Middleton sank both his shots from the foul line with two 2.1 second left.
The Americans were able to breathe a huge sigh of relief after Turkish forward Ersan Ilyasova’s off-balance shot on the buzzer fell short.
A demolition looked likely after the United States raced into a 10-2 lead but the Turks roared back and kept breathing down their opponents’ necks before they nosed ahead 81-79 with 12 seconds left in regular time.
Jayson Tatum hit two of three free throws to force overtime, where Turkey appeared to have done enough after a blatant foul by Joe Harris with 10 seconds left gave them four successive free throws when they were 92-91 ahead.
Much to the disbelief of their bench and the Shanghai crowd who roared Turkey on from the start, Dogus Balbay and Cedi Osman missed all their shots from the foul line before Middleton forced the final twist.
Having suffered a 108-92 defeat by Australia, the Canadians left themselves no chance of progressing after they were torn apart by a rock-solid Lithuanian side.
Lithuania never looked back after winning the first quarter 24-14 and built on that lead against a disjointed Canada, whose coach Nick Nurse suffered a painful exit after steering the Toronto Raptors to the 2019 NBA title.
Six Lithuanian players ended in double scoring digits to wipe out a valiant solo effort by Canada’s Kyle Wiltjer, the game’s top scorer with 24 points.
Greece face a decider against New Zealand to advance from their preliminary pool while Brazil booked their last-16 berth after Anderson Varejao racked up 22 points and nine rebounds for the South American side.
The Greeks missed a chance to force overtime as Kostas Sloukas missed one of three free throws with two seconds left while Giannis Antetokounmpo, last season’s most valuable player in the NBA regular season, was held to 13 points.
New Zealand kept alive their hopes of advancing with a 93-83 defeat of Montenegro as Corey Webster scored 25 points and towering center Isaac Fotu added 20, while Australia breezed to an 81-68 victory over Senegal.
The Czech Republic will battle it out with Turkey for a spot in the second group stage after an 89-76 win against Japan while France hardly broke sweat in a 103-64 rout of Jordan.
Serbia, the tournament favorites alongside the United States, face Italy in Wednesday’s standout fixture.
The top two teams from each of the eight preliminary pools will advance to the second group stage.
(Writing by Zoran Milosavljevic; Editing by Toby Davis)