Machida sets Olympic game-high assists record to send Japan to first-ever Final
TOKYO (Japan) - Rui Machida propelled host nation Japan to the Women's Basketball Olympic Final for the first time in their history after setting the Olympic game-high assists record of 18 of the day to take down France 87-71.
The playmaker produced one of the all-time great individual displays in the tournament, although in truth, that headlined what was an epic team effort from Japan. They had not even featured in the last four previously, but will now compete against the USA on Sunday for a gold medal.
Turning point: Japan came alive towards the end of the second quarter to snap the game open as they built a double-figure lead. While Marine Johannes looked to have stopped the bleeding for France with a late three to end the half, Japan came out firing again after the interval and their opponents simply could not live with them.
Stats Don't Lie: Japan even out-rebounded their opponents and that was a mark of what a team performance this was. The winners also racked up 24 fastbreak points.
Game hero(es): Machida showed out in the most spectacular way a point guard could ever wish for by handing out those record-breaking 18 assists. Himawari Akaho shot the lights out to pair 17 points with 7 rebounds. Meanwhile, the cameo of Yuki Miyazawa was also influential as she came up with 14 points and 7 rebounds.
Bottom line: France will now play for the bronze medal against Serbia in a repeat of the FIBA Women's EuroBasket Final from back in June. Les Bleus were completely demolished by the pure basketball brilliance and team play, and for the second time in this competition lost to Japan.
The hosts started modestly but then turned on the offensive taps. With Machida pulling the strings, Japan kept getting looks inside and outside - whatever they wanted. It will be a performance watched again and again by coaches, players and fans worldwide. It was beautiful for the neutral.
They said: "I have coached against her for 10 years and she was actually playing really badly back in March. I mean she was really, really bad (Machida nods her head and laughs) She was really, really bad. But then she started getting better. She fits into the system really well with all the shooters around her.
Her feel on the pick and roll is fanatstic - they all thrive off that. I am just so happy for Rui. She has always been in the background and is such a shy person and humble beyond belief - for her to get this recognition is fantastic." Japan head coach, Tom Hovasse
"Japan was better than us. It is very difficult to play with this team. They are so quick and especially wen you are trying to get back on defense. Now we have to be focused on the game tomorrow. We have only17 hours to rest and be ready to play against Serbia and we have to put all of our frustration into that game tomorrow. It has been tough, we started together back on 14 May. My playes have given it all on court and I know they will do their best tomorrow. The bronze medal is the goal. It will be a bit of revenge match and I trust the girls to get it against Serbia and to get the medal." France head coach, Valerie Garnier