Team USA clinic continues in bracket play
After an annihilation of Australia in the quarterfinal, team USA was set to take on the EuroBasket champions Serbia in the semifinal. Serbia had a more resistant path, having to beat an undefeated Chinese squad to make it here.
Before we even talk about the game, everyone must be reminded that Kara Lawson was commentating this game. The same Lawson that just won a Gold Medal as the head coach of the 3×3 team. The same Lawson that is the head coach of the Duke University women’s team. It is absolutely insane to do all three of those things at the same time and Lawson deserves all the praise.
With so many scoring options, Serbia has to pick their poison on defense. Letting A’ja Wilson drive one-on-one resulted in an easy layup, but double-teaming her on the block allowed an open three for Sue Bird to fall. The ability of the American bigs to pass out of the post could be their greatest asset in dismantling smaller frontcourts.
Similar to last game, Diana Taurasi got off to a slow start shooting the basketball. The difference today was that Taurasi utilized her secondary skill, passing, to stay involved in the game with a couple of dimes for easy Breanna Stewart layups.
Serbia is picking a part the US defense with relative ease as they are getting open midrange shots, especially on the left baseline. However, the shots are not falling and they need to start attacking the rim for better opportunities. Yvonne Anderson is the lone Serbian really looking to penetrate, and it is paying off for the University of Texas alum.
While it is a part of the game, the rim has been awfully kind to team USA as a few jumpers rattled around before falling through, giving the Americans a 25-12 lead after the first.
The best way to describe the second period is just sloppy. Looking at the box score you might think this 16 to 11 quarter was because of tenacious defense, but it was really just awful offense. For both teams it was unforced turnovers after bad shot attempts and overall non-fundamental basketball.
The biggest highlight of the quarter was a Sue Bird three, not the actual shot but her dad’s “Yes!” exclamation that we delightfully witnessed via the family cam.
Serbia got an offensive rebound on almost every possession, but it still was not enough to make up for their poor shooting.
After letting the lead dwindle to single digits, a couple of nice plays from Bird and Stewart (naturally), have team USA up big 41-23 after one half of play. Serbia will need a drastic change if they want to make a push for the gold medal game.
Team USA came out of the locker room with an emphasis on ball movement, with a handful of hockey assists on well executed play calls.
Diana Taurasi clearly hurt her hip on a screen but since it is Diana Taurasi she will not be voluntarily leaving the game anytime soon.
This game is getting dangerously close to a blow out, with Serbia showing no signs of a comeback on the horizon.
Points in the paint is the biggest team statistic difference outside of pure shooting percentages, with a 30-12 disparity nearing the end of the third quarter.
A Yvonne Anderson three followed by an inbound steal and layup cuts the lead to 14, but team USA does not seem worried yet, as another quick end-of quarter run pushes it back to 58-39.
I would be remiss if I did not mention once in this article how dominant Brittney Griner has been inside, she finished with 15 points and 12 boards, including a strong bucket to start the fourth quarter. The Serbians have no answer for her size.
The offensive rebound battle has completely flip-flopped with Chelsea “walking bucket” Gray being the biggest beneficiary of multiple possessions.
Halfway through the fourth and the Team USA reserves are in the game to close it out, showing Dawn Staley’s trust in her depth and giving her starters rest for the looming gold medal match. Serbia is not attacking the new players any differently, as they are still missing open shots no matter who the defender is.
The Serbians did make a few layups and got to the free throw line enough in garbage time to finish with a respectable 79-59 defeat. They will face France for bronze in search of a medal in back to back games.
USA will face off against host country Japan for the Gold, who knocked off the French for the second time this tournament with relative ease 87-71. Japan will be guaranteed their first women’s basketball medal in history.