Olympic Basketball 2021: Team USA Beats Japan to Win Women's Gold Medal

Paul KasabianFeatured Columnist IIAugust 8, 2021

United States' Brittney Griner (15) runs up court during women's basketball gold medal game between Japan and the United States at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Sunday, Aug. 8, 2021, in Saitama, Japan. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall

Brittney Griner scored 18 of her game-high 30 points in the first half to lead the United States to a 90-75 win over Japan in the women's basketball gold-medal game at the Tokyo Olympics.

#TokyoOlympics @NBCOlympics

🥇🥇🥇🥇🥇🥇🥇<br><br>THE GOLD STANDARD. <a href="https://twitter.com/usabasketball?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@USABasketball</a> makes it seven in a row! <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/TokyoOlympics?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#TokyoOlympics</a> x <a href="https://twitter.com/TeamUSA?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@TeamUSA</a> x <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/OlympicHERstory?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#OlympicHERstory</a> <a href="https://t.co/kFIsxsuKro">pic.twitter.com/kFIsxsuKro</a>

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

TEAM USA WOMEN’S BASKETBALL TAKES HOME THEIR SEVENTH STRAIGHT GOLD 🥇 <a href="https://t.co/2abexUvP55">pic.twitter.com/2abexUvP55</a>

Griner's 30-point effort set a gold-medal game record in women's Olympic basketball, per The Undefeated:

The Undefeated @TheUndefeated

Brittney Griner has broken Lisa Leslie’s record for the most points scored in a gold medal game in women's basketball.<br><br>Leslie scored 29 in 1996 vs Brazil. <a href="https://t.co/y3BQ6T5luu">pic.twitter.com/y3BQ6T5luu</a>

Griner's dominance highlighted the game's theme: The United States' size and skill down low led to its seventh straight Olympic gold medal and 55th consecutive Olympic win.

On Her Turf @OnHerTurf

The average height of Team USA basketball is 6'2".<br><br>Team Japan has an average height of 5'9".<br><br>A reminder that Brittney Griner is 6'9".<br><br>Carry on. <a href="https://t.co/B3fvjVlJo3">pic.twitter.com/B3fvjVlJo3</a>

The Phoenix Mercury center owned the paint en route to shooting 9-of-10 in the first half and 14-of-18 overall. The seven-time WNBA All-Star's length and multitude of post moves were too much for Japan, who fought valiantly in defeat.

Griner also led a tough defensive effort down low, with the United States amassing eight blocked shots by halftime and 12 total. The former Baylor star turned defense into offense on one notable first-quarter possession:

#TokyoOlympics @NBCOlympics

She blocks, she shoots, she scores.<br><br>6'9" <a href="https://twitter.com/brittneygriner?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@brittneygriner</a> is a force to be reckoned with. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/TokyoOlympics?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#TokyoOlympics</a> x <a href="https://twitter.com/TeamUSA?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@TeamUSA</a><br><br>📺 NBC<br>💻 <a href="https://t.co/1Mh4tA9Mxl">https://t.co/1Mh4tA9Mxl</a><br>📱 NBC Sports App <a href="https://t.co/NSbWnMAGRL">pic.twitter.com/NSbWnMAGRL</a>

The United States made 20 of 29 two-pointers in the first half, and A'ja Wilson joined Griner with 10 points of her own by halftime en route to 19.

#TokyoOlympics @NBCOlympics

'<a href="https://twitter.com/_ajawilson22?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@_AJAWilson22</a> is here and scoring! <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/TokyoOlympics?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#TokyoOlympics</a> x <a href="https://twitter.com/TeamUSA?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@TeamUSA</a> <br><br>📺 NBC<br>💻 <a href="https://t.co/1Mh4tA9Mxl">https://t.co/1Mh4tA9Mxl</a><br>📱 NBC Sports App <a href="https://t.co/PocjQHzeS9">pic.twitter.com/PocjQHzeS9</a>

Diana Taurasi had seven points and six assists through two quarters.

Japan prevented this from being a foregone conclusion at halftime because of its three-point shooting (6-of-15), with Motohashi Nako nailing 3-of-4 en route to 11 first-half points.

However, Team USA ran away with the game in the third, taking a 75-56 lead going into the final frame. The United States scored five more buckets in the paint in the third, with Griner dropping eight points.

Meanwhile, Japan went cold from deep, making just two of 16 shots from beyond the arc in the final two quarters.

Head coach Dawn Staley's crew led by as many as 25 in the fourth, and Griner continued her torrid pace.

#TokyoOlympics @NBCOlympics

'<a href="https://twitter.com/brittneygriner?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@BrittneyGriner</a> continues to shine tonight!<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/TokyoOlympics?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#TokyoOlympics</a> x <a href="https://twitter.com/TeamUSA?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@TeamUSA</a><br><br>📺 NBC<br>💻 <a href="https://t.co/1Mh4tA9Mxl">https://t.co/1Mh4tA9Mxl</a><br>📱 NBC Sports App <a href="https://t.co/KeiZeYCJXW">pic.twitter.com/KeiZeYCJXW</a>

Griner's final bucket, which was courtesy of a Sue Bird assist with 5:51 left, gave her the gold-medal-game scoring record:

On Her Turf @OnHerTurf

3️⃣0️⃣ for BG!!!!!<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/OlympicHERstory?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#OlympicHERstory</a> | <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/TokyoOlympics?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#TokyoOlympics</a> <a href="https://t.co/xaNGMD7bSa">pic.twitter.com/xaNGMD7bSa</a>

Japan fought until the end and finished the game on a 15-5 run, but Team USA closed its seventh straight Olympics with an undefeated record.

Staley added to her own remarkable list of coaching accomplishments:

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

.<a href="https://twitter.com/dawnstaley?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@dawnstaley</a>'s resume is 🔥 <a href="https://t.co/xkljEVTQXf">pic.twitter.com/xkljEVTQXf</a>

Breanna Stewart also had a great night, posting 14 points, 14 rebounds, five assists and three blocks. Taurasi finished with seven points, eight dimes and six boards.

For Japan, Takada Maki led the team with 17 points, and Motohashi added 16 points, five rebounds and four dimes.

In the end, Griner was the gold-medal-game star, and basketball analyst LaChina Robinson praised her growth and first-half performance:

LaChina Robinson @LaChinaRobinson

Going back to her play before the <a href="https://twitter.com/WNBA?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@WNBA</a> break I am so impressed with Brittney Griner. She took that time off after leaving Bradenton last summer and she seems to have hit another level of maturity and consistency. I can’t wait until she finally gets her first league MVP award.

ESPN Stats & Info ran down the historical context behind Team USA's win:

ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo

The United States women's basketball team wins its 7th straight Olympic gold medal.<br><br>That ties the longest gold medal streak in any Olympic team sport.<br><br>The USA men's basketball team won 7 straight from 1936-68 (no Games in 1940, 1944) <a href="https://t.co/TOAjCv1YCb">pic.twitter.com/TOAjCv1YCb</a>

The Team USA win also added another line to the storied resumes of Bird and Taurasi, who have now won five Olympic gold medals apiece.

Bird also became the oldest Olympian to win a basketball gold medal.