U.S. women roll, to vie for 7th straight hoops gold

  • ESPN.com NBA writer since 2010
  • Covered Cleveland Cavs for seven years
  • Author of two books

SAITAMA, Japan — With smooth execution that has gotten more impressive as the Tokyo Olympics have gone on, the U.S. women’s basketball team earned a chance to play for a seventh consecutive gold medal with a 79-59 victory over Serbia on Friday.

The Americans had a clear and concise game plan for Serbia, which was the 2016 bronze medalist and won the coveted Eurobasket title earlier this summer, and it centered around setting up their star post players.

Whether it was Brittney Griner, who came into the game shooting 69% from the field in Japan and finished with 15 points and 12 rebounds, or A’ja Wilson on the block or Breanna Stewart cutting to the rim, the plan created advantageous positions.

By the fourth quarter the Serbians had had enough it, just fouling Griner when she got the ball inside. In a moment that defined the game, Serbia forward Drajana Jovanovic slapped Griner’s arms out of frustration to stop another shot. Griner just shook her head with an annoyed smile.

The U.S. made 10 hoops in the paint in the first half alone and then looked to get out an run in after getting stops for easy baskets. Stewart, who runs the floor brilliantly, knew she had a speed advantage on the Serbians and she ran the floor every chance she saw and repeatedly was able to get easy baskets. Stewart finished with 12 points, 10 rebounds and three assists.

Serbia came in with the fourth-best team 3-point percentage in the Olympics but found no airspace against the USA’s long defenders. They missed their first seven 3-point tries and started the game 6-of-22 from the floor, aiding the U.S. in building an 18-point lead in the first half. They managed just 30% shooting for the game.

Chelsea Gray added 14 points for the Americans, who won their 54th consecutive Olympic game.

The only downside to the day was an apparent leg injury to veteran guard Diana Taurasi, who limped off in the third quarter and didn’t return.

Serbia was led by Yvonne Anderson, who was a star at the University of Texas and become a naturalized Serbian last year, and her 15 points.

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