Though they are the home team, Japan’s men’s basketball team is the lowest-ranked squad in the 2020 Olympics at No. 42. And to outplay that ranking, Washington Wizards forward Rui Hachimura and his team want to make sure they play at a high level once the actual games begin next week. It will be tough to get out of a group that features Spain, Argentina and Slovenia. But again, the games still have to be played.
In the meantime, they have prepared for the Olympics with a series of friendlies. Their most recent was yesterday when they defeated Belgium, 87-59 in Saitama, Japan, getting revenge after losing to the Lions 73-70 on July 9 (link in Dutch).
The Japanese also played in a 79-58 win against Hungary and lost 76-71 against Finland on July 11, but Hachimura did not play in any of these friendlies until yesterday’s contest. When he showed up, Hachimura ran the Belgians out of the gym, looking like ... Emma Meesseman out there from his play on the court to the box score!
(You knew that analogy was coming out there guys and gals, so let me live here!)
Hachimura’s highlights are in the video above. He scored 24 points while shooting 9-of-14 from the field and 2-of-5 from three (link in Japanese). In addition, Hachimura also grabbed 6 rebounds and dished 2 assists. Hachimura also did this in just under 19 minutes, so just imagine how dominant Hachimura would have been if he was out there for 30!
Toronto Raptors forward Yuta Watanabe added 15 points ad Gavin Edwards added 10 more for Japan.
For the Belgian Lions, Khalid Boukichou scored 13 points and former G-Leaguer Manu LeComte added 12. The Lions only shot 19 percent from three and shot 48 percent from the free throw line, which made the rout even worse. It didn’t help that Japan outrebounded Belgium, 39-27 as well.
Before we jump to conclusions, it is important to take Japan’s friendlies, especially against countries that AREN’T in the Olympics, with a grain of salt.
While Belgium is the 37th ranked team in the world and is a consistent presence in men’s EuroBasket over the past decade, they aren’t in the Olympics’ men’s basketball tournament for a reason (though their 3x3 team is). It’s also going to be tough for Belgium to show out against a team with the home crowd behind them. Yes, this game had fans though there won’t be fans during the Olympics themselves.
Since we’re from the DMV, we know why Belgium’s women’s basketball team is in the Olympics. Meesseman has been in Japan for some time:
Fun fact: been in Japan for 10 days and still didn’t have any sushi or ramen— Emma Meesseman (@EmmaMeesseman) July 17, 2021
But going back to the Belgium men’s national team, why are non-Olympic qualifying teams in Japan then? Hungary and Finland didn’t make it either.
It’s in part because the Lions are preparing for EuroBasket and FIBA World Cup qualifying matches in the coming months (link in Dutch). While this loss hurt, Belgium won all of their friendlies in Japan before this particular one (link in Dutch).
Japan’s next friendly is on Sunday, 12:30 a.m. ET when they play France, coincidentally the first team the USA Basketball men’s national team will play in group play during the Olympics. That will be their toughest test yet since the French are ranked 7th in the world.