July 29, 2021 

Keys to Team USA’s game vs. Japan

Host nation is leading Tokyo Olympics with 15 gold medals

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Team USA (Stephen Gosling/NBAE/Getty Images)

There is always excitement in the air when a highly-favorited USA Basketball team plays a team hosting the Olympics and is motivated for the big upset.

Despite no spectators in the stands, Friday’s matchup between the U.S. women and Japan will surely provide a boost of adrenaline, especially given the success of the home team these Olympics. Japan is leading the gold medal count through Thursday with 15, already one off its all-time high. The game is set to tip-off at 12:40 a.m. on the East Coast and 9:40 p.m. PT Thursday on USA Network.

Japan shot 11-of-27 from downtown in its 74-70 win over France earlier in the week, while five players scored between eight and 12 points, and eight of them scored on threes.

“Every player on their roster is a capable shooter and no more likely to shoot than others,” U.S. assistant coach Jen Rizzotti said. “They do a great job of spreading you out; their guard set is tremendously fast-paced for the game. They share the ball well. They read the defense and find the open player. We need to do a good job of defending, forcing them into contended two-point shots.”

The Americans committed 25 turnovers during its 81-72 win over Nigeria on Tuesday, something Coach Rizzotti said they worked on in practice afterward.

“It’s hard to work on turnovers,” Rizzotti said, “when some of them are just careless mistakes, and the team knows that. Some of the turnovers were forced by Nigeria’s physicalness and their ability to pick up the full court and get us out of a rhythm, and some were just careless passes. Players have different roles than they have in the WNBA, so the more game we have together and the more practices we have, the more comfortable we get together, and those numbers will certainly go down. A lot of our turnovers came in the quarter court; they didn’t come in the full court, which is our inability to get organized.”

Rizzotti added the team worked on being better disciplined. Teams that press are given a chance to rest and reset their defenses when sent to the free-throw line so many times, so when the U.S. made its comeback run against Nigeria, it was due to getting defensive stops.

Also, while Japan’s two tallest players are both 6’1, the U.S. has Brittney Griner, Sylvia Fowles, Tina Charles, A’ja Wilson, and Breanna Stewart to utilize up front.

“They are just as aggressive as a team as Nigeria,” Stewart said about Team Japan. “They will try to trap us, and we need to use our size and our ability to pound the ball in the paint.”

Team USA avoided playing Great Britain and Brazil at home in the last two Olympics, so the Japan matchup will be its first with a home team since a 108-63 win over China at Beijing 2008.

Written by Scott Mammoser

Scott Mammoser has covered major international events for FIBA, World Athletics and the International Skating Union. He has been to six Olympics and traveled to more than 90 countries.

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