As he did throughout the playoffs in consecutive title-winning years for the Lakers, Lamar Odom performed at his best when his team needed it most, this time for Team USA at Sunday’s World Championship final against Turkey.
Odom went for a double-double for the second straight game, scoring 15 points with 11 rebounds in the 81-64 gold-medal-deciding game against the Turks, playing in front of a frenzied home crowd in Istanbul.
All 15 of Odom’s points and eight of his rebounds came in the second half, and he scored nine of his team’s first 13 points to open the fourth quarter, helping to keep Turkey from getting back into the contest.
This after a 13-point, 10-rebound, 3-block, 2-assist performance in Team USA’s 89-74 semifinal win over Lithuania on Saturday, and all while playing out of his natural position at center throughout an unblemished tournament for coach Mike Krzyzewski’s bunch.
“This team had a lot of character and poise,” Odom told the Associated Press. “A lot of people thought we were undersized and we didn’t have a center, we didn’t have too many big guys. People thought we were going to get killed on the inside, but we played tough, hung in there, and stayed strong, focused.”
The Americans may not have won their first World Championship trophy since 1994 without Odom’s all-around play, or, particularly, without a terrific tournament from tournament MVP Kevin Durant. The Thunder forward buried seven three-pointers against Turkey en route to 28 points, and set a USA scoring record for the tourney.
His Oklahoma City teammate Russell Westbrook added 13 points off the bench, while Bulls point guard Derrick Rose chipped in eight points and a game-high six assists.
Hedo Turkoglu, moving from the Raptors to the Suns this coming season, led Turkey with 16 points, but the Turks managed to shoot just 36.4 percent against a swarming American defense.
So, starting in June of 2009, Odom won his first NBA title when the Lakers beat the Orlando Magic. Then this past June came No. 2, an even sweeter victory against the Boston Celtics. And now a World Championship gold medal.
Not a bad two years for the lanky lefty.