Dominant USA to meet Japan in Olympic women’s basketball final

Sports Tokyo 2020

Team USA are targeting a seventh consecutive Olympic women's basketball gold medal.'(Thomas COEX/AFP)
Team USA are targeting a seventh consecutive Olympic women’s basketball gold medal.'(Thomas COEX/AFP)

Saitama, Japan | AFP

Brittney Griner scored a game-high 15 points as a dominant United States moved a step closer to a seventh consecutive Olympic women’s basketball title Friday, sweeping past Serbia and into a final against Japan.

The Americans were 41-23 ahead at half-way and kept firm control to win 79-59 and set up a gold medal clash against the host nation, who reached their first-ever final with an impressive 87-71 rout of 2012 silver medallists France.

Japan were led by pocket-rocket Rui Machida, who made an incredible 18 assists, a new Olympic women’s game record.

Phoenix star Griner also grabbed 12 rebounds for the US while Chelsea Gray added 14 points, with Yvonne Anderson sinking 15 points to lead Serbia.

“It wasn’t our best overall performance. I thought we did a tremendous job defensively, just making it very hard for the Serbia team to get off clean looks,” said US coach Dawn Staley.

“Offensively, I just thought we put enough points on the scoreboard to win. It wasn’t as clean and fluid as we would like.

“But at this stage of the game you’re going to have to win a lot of different ways and we found a way to win.”

It was never going to be easy for European champions and Rio bronze medallists Serbia, with the all-conquering US so dominant they have won eight out of the past nine Olympic titles.

Their only blemishes so far have been a silver medal behind the Soviet Union at the inaugural tournament in 1976 and bronze in 1992.

“Today we faced a team that we didn’t really have an answer for,” admitted Serbia’s Anderson.

“But we are not down about it, we are not sobbing or beating ourselves up. We are just getting ready for tomorrow (bronze medal match).”

Buffer

The US will play the title-match on Sunday against the Japanese, who beat France 74-70 in the group phase and comprehensively did so again Friday, with point guard Machida instrumental.

She added nine points to her 18 assists, with Himawari Akado contributing 17 points.

France went on a 9-0 run to close the first quarter 22-14 but it was all-Japan in the second term. Spurred by Machida, they won it 27-12 for a 41-34 half-way lead.

Japan's Rui Machida was instrumental in their win over France (Aris MESSINIS/AFP)
Japan’s Rui Machida was instrumental in their win over France (Aris MESSINIS/AFP)

The host nation, whose previous best finish was fifth at the 1976 Montreal Olympics, then took an unassailable 18-point buffer into the final stretch and never looked back.

Victory at Saitama Super Arena on Friday was the Americans’ 54th in a row at the Olympics, an amazing streak that began with the 1992 bronze-medal decider and includes a record six straight gold medals and five wins in Tokyo.

Serbia enjoyed a solid opening few minutes, but a US team led by WNBA veterans Sue Bird and Diana Tauras, who are incredibly in their fifth Olympics, quickly found their rhythm.

They raced to a 25-12 first quarter lead with their defense rock solid before faltering when they used their bench early in the second term and the points dried up.

Staley reverted back to her starting line-up and the baskets started flowing again as they took a 41-23 advantage into the second-half, 20 of the points from inside the paint.

Serbia was shooting below 30 percent from the field and they failed to make up any ground with the US heading into the final stretch with a 59-39 lead, before cruising home.

© Agence France-Presse

Tokyo 2020 AFP Basketball