The Japanese Senior Men's National Team appears to be ready to make some noise when it hosts the upcoming Olympic Games.
Led by 19 points from Washington Wizards forward Rui Hachimura and 18 points from Toronto Raptors forward Yuta Watanabe, Japan earned an 81-75 victory over France in a pre-Olympic friendly exhibition held in Saitama, Japan.
🙏🙏🙏- バスケットボール日本代表 (@JAPAN_JBA) July 18, 2021
#8 八村塁 19pts@rui_8mura
#12 渡邊雄太 18pts@wacchi1013 #AkatsukiFive#GONOW pic.twitter.com/Avgekld5r6
This is no small feat for Japan, as France was ranked No. 7 overall in FIBA's most recent installment of World Rankings. With just two NBA players in Hachimura and Watanabe, Japan built an early double-digit lead, entering the halftime break with a 16-point advantage.
Led by 16 points from Boston Celtics guard Evan Fournier, France didn't go away easily, but Japan's early advantage was too much to overcome. Fournier is one of five NBA players on a French roster that also features LA Clippers forward Nicolas Batum, Brooklyn Nets guard Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot, New York Knicks guard Frank Ntilikina and three-time Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz.
Gobert finished the game with 11 points and eight rebounds.
Les Bleus s'inclinent de 6 pts lors du dernier match de préparation aux JO face au Japon : 75-81. Début du tournoi olympique, dimanche 25/07 face à Team USA. #TeamFranceBasket #JPNFRA pic.twitter.com/9XAv3ndqa6- Equipes de France de Basket (@FRABasketball) July 18, 2021
Watanabe, who just wrapped his first full season as a member of the Raptors franchise, said leading into the Olympic Games that he makes an effort to impart the wisdom learned from his NBA teammates upon his teammates with the Japanese National Team.
This past season, the 26-year-old impressed Raptors brass enough for his two-way contract to get converted into a standard multi-year NBA contract. The experience Watanabe stands to gain as one of Japan's top-two scoring options at the Olympics will be extremely beneficial as he returns to the Raptors for camp ahead of the 2021-22 NBA season.
Japan, which is in Preliminary Group C at the upcoming Olympic Games, begins its schedule when it faces the Spanish National Team on Monday, July 26 at 8:00 a.m. ET.
Stick with NBA Canada for more updates surrounding Watanabe's performance with Japan at the Olympic Games.
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