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Olympic Final Previews: Team USA goes for gold

Team USA and Japan square off in the gold medal round while France and Serbia meet to see who will take the bronze.

United States v Serbia Women’s Basketball - Olympics: Day 14
A’ja Wilson has led Team USA to another Olympic final.
Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Team USA seeks its seventh-consecutive gold medal and ninth overall while Japan is seeking to improve upon an already incredible Olympic performance on Saturday at 10:30 p.m. ET.

In the third-place game at 3 a.m. ET on Saturday, France will face Serbia. A win for either country will result in a second Olympic medal. France won silver in 2012 and Serbia won bronze in 2016.

Team USA and Japan rematch

Team USA and Japan met in the group stage, where Japan led 30-28 after the first quarter. Yet, the U.S. women held their opponent to just 39 points over the next three quarters and won comfortably, 86-69.

Both teams have been scoring at high clip through these Olympic Games: 83.6 points on average, which is tied for the highest mark. Yet, they score in different ways. Boasting some of the best post players in the world, Team USA takes 69.4 percent of its shots from inside the 3-point line. For Japan, there is more of a balance and 46.9 percent of its shots are from long distance. Japan also happens to shoot the long ball pretty well as a team: 40.9 percent, the best mark in the tournament.

Japan’s defense has been able to get stops when it needs them but sustained defensive pressure has not been a feature throughout this tournament. Opponents are shooting 49.3 percent against Japan, giving the host nation the second-worst field goal percentage in the tournament. Meanwhile, Team USA has been stifling, holding teams to 67.4 points per game and a 33.3 percent overall shooting percentage.

Japan will need to make its 3-point shots at a high rate while limiting second chance opportunities for Team USA if it is to earn a gold medal. Win or lose, this will mark the Japanese’s first Olympic medal in women’s basketball.

France looks for revenge against Serbia

Serbia beat France in the Women’s EuroBasket final in June, 63-54. This is the fourth appearance in the Olympics for France, while for Serbia it is the second appearance.

Serbia has lived on the edge as their largest margin of victory has been seven points. In their group stage opener against Canada, the Canadians erased an eight-point deficit in the third quarter only for Serbia to win 72-68. Serbia also played it tight against South Korea, winning 65-61. In the quarterfinals against China, Serbia trailed by nine heading into the final quarter, but came back to win 77-70.

France has just two wins in the tournament, a group stage blowout of Nigeria, 87-62, and a narrow win against Spain the quarterfinals, 67-64.

Both teams will look to utilize the inside game as a path victory because both have shot around 30 percent from beyond the arc. France has shot an impressive 54.4 percent on its 2-point field goals, which seems to give it an edge over Serbia, which has shot 43.3 percent.

On paper, this game looks pretty close and could go either way. The bronze medal game could turn out to be one of the best of the 2020 Olympics.