Kevin Durant hit 38 points in 38 minutes as the USA booked their place in Sunday’s FIBA world championship final with an 89-74 rout of Lithuania. They will square off for the title against Turkey who snatched a dramatic 83-82 win over Serbia.

And there is no doubt that Mike Krzyzewski’s men will be favoured if their young talisman maintains his astonishing form, despite being troubled at times by the Baltic rivals who could not quite match their best performances from earlier in this tournament.

But here they stand, with their fate in their own hands and with one more job to do on Sunday night in front of what might be the most hostile audience they have ever experienced.

“We are honoured to be in the championship game, especially this World Championship,” said Krzyzewski, who had twice before been a semi-final loser. “There have been so many close games in this tournament. To be one of the two teams to play in the final, you hope you can take advantage of the moment.”

The lead changed hands four times before the USA went ahead for good midway through the first period as Durant underlined his immense value to an otherwise ordinary American team as he set about compiling what was an individual USA record score. Converting a bonus shot, he made it 12-11. His side would never trail again and the 12-0 run that followed put Lithuania under immense strain.

Their poise deserted them as did the impressive shooting that left Argentina reeling in their quarter-final, making just 5 of their initial 16 attempts. Down 23-12 at the end of the first, with Durant already on 17, they began to force shots rather than imposing themselves physically. It played into the USA’s hands as a 9-0 run opened up a 42-25 advantage as Durant hit a three that brought his colleagues on the bench to their feet.

Coach K had to push his players to the max (FIBA)

Martynas Pocius, often overlooked by Krzyzewski during his spell at Duke, hit two free-throws to make it 42-27 at half-time. The Lithuanian fans, banging their drums, and waving their giant flag, tried to spark a rally. Their players responded but it was too great an ask.

Mantas Kalnetis hit a three that brought his side back within 10 after Russell Westbrook missed a breakaway dunk but the USA responded to halt their opponents charge. The gap stood at 65-53 entering the fourth but try as they might, Kestutis Kemzura’s young side could not put together a flurry of their own.

“From the start they controlled the game,” Lithuania’s coach conceded. “We tried to come back, from 19 or 20 back to 11 or 12, but that was all we could do.”

They came no closer than 11 as Durant willed the favourites forward, saluting his team-mates when he took his tally to 30 with two minutes left. The Oklahoma City Thunder forward was a class apart. And now the USA is just one win away from bringing home the world title for the first time since 1994.

“We’re anxious,” admitted LA Lakers forward Lamar Odom who had 13 points and 10 rebounds. “We have to remain poised and stay focused so we can attain our goal. We have to keep pushing. We’re striving to be perfect.”

Robertas Javtokas led Lithuania with 15 points and 9 rebounds.

Turkey 83 Serbia 82

The Turks  – paced by 16 points from Hedo Turkogu – defeated Serbia 83-82 in a dramatic semi-final when Kerem Tunceri scored a lay-up with less than a second remaining. Their opponents had one more last desperate shot but it was swatted away, a team – and a nation – celebrating together as their hopes of going all the way to the last game of this sparkling tournament were realised.

“The chance fell to me,” said Tunceri. “I tried to score at critical moments and this was the biggest in Turkish history. We weren’t great offensively but we defeated Serbia. It’s great. But now we’ll focus on the next match.”

It is the dream finale but the semi-final almost turned into a nightmare for a 15,000 capacity crowd who were on the edge of their seats until the very end.

Novica Velickovic hit an early three-pointer to put the Serbia 8-6 ahead in the third minute and although Tunceri levelled, the hosts would not lead again until three minutes from the end.

A 6-0 run widened the gap and although Turkey hit seven unanswered to tie up the game at 15-15, by the close of the first, Dusan Ivkovic’s men were 20-17 in front.

They have improved vastly since finishing as shock runners-up to Spain in last summer’s Eurobasket final, adding poise to their skills. Unaffected by the ever-increasing din, they reeling off seven consecutive points to open up a 33-25 lead midway through the second.

Confidently, they kept passing the ball around until the right opportunity presented itself and their 42-35 half-time cushion was no fluke, with eight different players sharing the scoring load.

The Turks looked rattled. Bogdan Tanjevic sat calmly on the bench when they re-emerged but around him, nerves were stretched and frayed. Turkoglu attempted to soothe with a three-pointer that saw the arena erupt into a deafening roar but Serbia did not cower.

An 8-0 run pulled them 54-46 ahead with 4.53 left in the third and suddenly, the Turks found themselves needing to make a move. And so they did. A 7-0 run reduced the deficit with Kerem Gonlum missing an opportunity to tie matters when he missed a free-throw.

With so much at stake, every point mattered and the momentum was broken as Stefan Markovic and Marko Keselj – who ended with a game-high 18 points – added quick baskets and once against Turkey had to chase.

Down 63-60 entering the fourth, they needed someone to step forward. To that point, nine players had scored but it was no shock that Tanjevic left Turkoglu on the bench for 2 minutes, resting his NBA icon for the critical stages that would decide their fate.

When he returned, the impact was immediate, the Phoenix Suns swingman draining a three from the top of the key to make it 66-64. Foul trouble was afflicting both sides but so were turnovers as the anxiety grew. Turkoglu missed two foul shots and then watched as Milos Teodosic shook himself free of a half-court press to hit yet another clutch three which made it 72-64 with just under 6 minutes to go.

There was now no margin for error. Tunceri hit a three to ask more questions of Serbia but each time, a response was found. Savanovic hit a trey of his own and the pulses sped once more.

However they went off the scale when Turkey made its run. A 9-0 burst took them in front, capped by a three-pointer from Tunceri and two foul shots from Onan, put the hosts 78-75 to the good. The crowd stood and sang in unison, urging their compatriots not to relent. Every loose ball, every rebound, every chance was willed towards a red jersey.

Savanovic hit two from the line. Ender Arslan hit one at the other end. Nenad Krstic hit one in reply. The Serbs trailed 79-78 with 1 minute left. Not a soul was disengaged from the drama.

Keselj drew a foul with 28 seconds left and made both his shots as the lead changed hands but this was far from over. Erden slammed the ball home with 16 to go and took Krstic with him, the Thunder centre fouling out with 15 points, trudging to the bench.

Kerem Tunceri's lay-up with 0.5 seconds left broke Serbia's hearts (FIBA)

Erden missed and Teodosic broke forth. The ball made its way to Velickovic under the basket and he put Serbia ahead.

“Unfortunately, we lost our concentration under pressure in the last couple of minutes,” Ivkovic declared afterwards.

Tunceri – who hit 10 of his 12 points in the fourth – had the Turkish faithful explode when he broke away for an easy lay-in. “We expected Turkoglu and we weren’t organised,” Ivkovic admitted. 0.5 seconds were put on the clock as their opponents chased a miracle. Velickovic managed to get a pushed shot off but Erden came out with a priceless block as the home side booked their spot in the final to thunderous roars of approval.

They will be no pushovers. “There will be less pressure on us,” Tanjevic stated. Nonsense. They know all of Turkey expects. It should be a pulsating climax.

Earlier, Russian coach David Blatt brought his era in charge to an end by guiding his team to an 83-78 win over Slovenia in the seventh-place play-off.

The Slovenes had led by as much as 14 in the third quarter but a 12-0 run in the final minutes saw Russia home, led by 19 points from New York Knicks signing Timofey Mozgov. And Blatt had one last parting shot for his bosses, whom he accused of political interference.

“It’s hard to work 12 months of the year,” he said, “especially if all of Russian basketball is not behind you.”

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