For one half of basketball, it appeared as if Japan would hang with the United States and force them to play in their most competitive game in over a decade.
With one minute and 12 seconds left in the first half, Japan trailed the United States by just two points, 48-46. In the next 72 seconds, the United States would go on an 8-0 run to close the half.
In the second half, that run would turn into more, much more. With just under five minutes left in the third quarter, the U.S. lead was up to 17. By the end of that period, the U.S. led by 22. In the final 21 minutes and 12 seconds, of the game, the U.S. outscored Japan 62-18.
A two-point lead grew to a 46-point win. And once again the United States would march on to the semifinals, undefeated, but unharmed.
Sue Bird went down with a knee injury in the second quarter. Details on her injury are not yet available, but she did not return to the game. Diana Taurasi may be the team’s best player, but Bird is the team’s leader, their heartbeat.
With Bird watching on, Taurasi continued her march towards the record for most threes in a single Olympic tournament. She already owns the record for most threes all-time by a woman in the Olympics and most threes in a single game by a player wearing the stars and stripes. With five more today, she sits just one triple from tying the record, two from creating a new mark.
Taurasi finished with 19 points on 7-for-11, tied with Maya Moore for the game-high. Moore added three rebounds, three assists and a steal to her line.
The U.S. finished with eight players in double digits, tying an Olympic record for the second time in the tournament. No team has ever had eight players score 10 or more points. The lone player not to score for the U.S. was Bird.
Size and depth once again proved to be the difference in the game. The U.S. bench combined for 62 points, just two shy of the total for the entire Japanese squad.
Japan, a pesky young team without a player over 28 years old, kept it close for a half and in women’s basketball, against the United States, that’s an accomplishment.
They were paced by Ramu Tokashiki’s 14 points, three rebounds and four assists. Mika Kurihara and Sanae Motokawa each had 12.
With their 47th straight Olympic-win, the U.S. continues on to the semifinals. Their opponent will be the winner of Tuesday night’s game between France and Canada, both whom have never beaten the U.S. in Olympic play.