SAITAMA, Japan — The Japanese women’s basketball team put together a smart and efficient game plan, ran it to such perfection that instructional videos could be made from the edits and showed off a roster where everyone could shoot, dribble and pass.
It was a brilliant display of basketball. But it was no match for Team USA.
This is the state of play and has been for decades now as the Americans claimed their seventh consecutive gold medal in a 90-75 victory Sunday.
Two of the women who built and grew that dynasty, Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi, put their hands on their fifth gold medals, the first international basketball players to ever have achieved that feat. That’s an impeccable tour of Athens, Beijing, London, Rio and now Tokyo as they showed off a global desire for winning and longevity that has defined the program.
Playing in their final game with the national team, the 55th consecutive Olympic win, they made the first two baskets and then symbolically handed it off to the younger generation to carry it home. Brittney Griner capped off a memorable Olympic run with her best game in Tokyo, putting up 30 points on 14-on-18 shooting, to lead the offensive attack.
Japan has a balanced scoring team and every player is a capable 3-point shooter. They came in averaging 13 3-pointers a game on 41% shooting, numbers that any team in the world would envy. They spread the floor, move, back cut and pass their way to open shots with a fundamental genius.
But no team on the planet can match the American size and the Japanese are especially challenged. They had no answer for the post presence of Griner and A’ja Wilson, who finished with 19 points, seven rebounds and five assists. Or Breanna Stewart, who had 14 points, 14 rebounds and five assists.
Team USA coach Dawn Staley played Bird and Taurasi long minutes in their farewell and it was tiring as the Japanese offense really forces opposing guards to cover a lot of space. But Taurasi was very effective in feeding the post and racked up eight assists with seven points and eight rebounds.
Despite all that, Japan was down just six late in the first quarter and had the lead under 10 in the third quarter. Team USA’s size bothered Japan’s airspace on the outside and they weren’t able to generate as many good outside looks as normal.
Japan, which came into the tournament ranked No. 10 in the world and was pleased with their silver medal showing, was led by captain Maki Takada’s 17 points.
Team USA women’s hoops wins seventh straight gold medal at Tokyo Olympics
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