TOKYO — The US women’s basketball team has many advantages during the Olympic tournament, including a clique of WNBA stars who seem to have a lot of chemistry.
But one of the main ones could be that several of them have played in international competitions in the off-season or are now doing so for lucrative contracts, making their opponents not as unknown as they would otherwise be.
Brittney Griner said so after leading the team in a 79-59 game in the Serbia semifinals, which gave the U.S. squad its 54th consecutive Olympic win since 1992 and the 11th time they have played in the gold medal game, which is Sunday. .
“After nine years in the WNBA, playing abroad and also knowing the players, I have played many players from team Serbia abroad,” said Griner, who plays on the Phoenix Mercury and in China. and Russia has played “So with that confidence and that familiarity I can play well.”
That was a bit of an understatement. She had 15 points and 12 rebounds. That, coupled with Chelsea Gray’s 14 points and Breanna Stewart’s 12, made the USA unstoppable, as they have been throughout the tournament.
The United States has surpassed Nigeria, Japan, France and, in a quarter-final, Australia, always by comfortable margins.
The American women are favorites to win their ninth gold, and teams don’t seem to have an answer for their versatile offense and defense. They lead the tournament in scores, assists and field goals – as well as star power with the likes of Bird, A’ja Wilson and Diana Taurasi.
Wilson said the US has focused on improving its defenses.
“That comes from just playing with each other, trusting that the next layer of defense is there,” she said.
She added: “We’re really starting to control our defenders and our teams and we’re just getting together.”
As the team steams ahead, pressure may mount to meet expectations for a seventh straight gold. Or is that to excite them?
“This is exactly where we want to be, so everything is on the line now,” Stewart said. “We’re going to do everything we can to make sure we come home with gold.”
Still, she said, the drive to achieve the goal could take something away from an Olympic experience already limited by pandemic protocols and regulations.
“Right now there’s so much pressure that it’s a total of seven, things like that, that you get lost in what’s really happening and enjoy being in the Olympics,” Stewart said.
Serbia, which ranks number 8 in the world, was not considered a doormat. They had a comeback win over China in the quarter-finals and are the reigning EuroBasket champions; they are known for abrasive if not flashy attack and hard defense. Jelena Brooks leads the team in scoring with 13.5 points per game.
Yvonne Anderson, a US-born player with Serbian citizenship, led Serbia against the United States with 15 points and two rebounds.
The US may have already passed their strongest competition in this tournament by beating Australia, which is ranked No. 2 in the world. France is in fifth place in the world and Japan in 10th.
But the Americans, who are number 1 – if it must be said – promised to be ready for France or Japan.
“The winning team will come across as extra aggressive, but we have to fight through that,” said Sylvia Fowles. “Right now we are stuck with the task ahead. We are just trying to win the gold.”