TOKYO, Japan— For much of the game at Tokyo 2020 that Team USA Men’s Wheelchair Basketball played against their first opponent Germany, Team USA played what could be called, “luke warm” basketball. However, in terms of keeping their win streak from Rio 2016 alive, they were “red hot” with their ninth Paralympic victory in a row, winning 58-55.
Team USA managed to bring home a significant victory for the result itself, and especially for showing the character to come back during a difficult time in the match.
“I would say that we didn’t play our best basketball today,” Matt Scott said after the match.
“But that’s the important thing about having championship pedigree; we’ve been able to win games that weren’t necessarily our best game.”
Team USA had a slow start against Germany that immediately gained a six-point lead and maintained it for almost three-quarters of the match. The European team seemed entirely in control of the game, showing to Team USA and the other opponents that they have something to say in this tournament.
Germany led the match for more than 33 minutes, but the United States took the lead when it counted the most and secured the win in the last minutes of the match.
Team USA lacked precision when shooting and did not defend at the top of their abilities in the opening half of the game. At the same time, Germany were more precise, scoring with more consistency, and defended better.
“The first half, you know, was like getting adjustments. It was the first game in a long time with the team, so we knew we were going to make a few mistakes,” Brian Bell said at the end of the match.
Looking ahead to the next games, Bell has clear ideas on what aspects the team need to work on.
“I think just making sure that we focus a bit more when we are making easier shots because there were a lot of easy shots that we missed,” Bell said.
“And then a little more recognition and communication on defense. We pride ourselves on defense so we know that we can improve upon that area.”
The second half of the game told a different story with Team USA that slowly reduced the point difference with Germany and gained confidence throughout the match. The Americans stepped up when it counted the most.
At the end of the third quarter, a couple of defensive rebounds helped Team USA finished the quarter on a high note. The gap with Germany was reduced to only two points, giving them more hope for the beginning of the last quarter as the match was not over yet and both teams had still the possibility to win.
In the last quarter, Team USA finally took the lead for the first time in the match. However, Germany was not giving up easily, and in the last minutes, every shot could have been the decisive one.
After the match, the players did not seem worried about their struggle on the court against Germany. On the contrary, it appeared that they were expecting a challenging game after so much time since they last played an official match.
“I mean, this is our first game in two years. That’s all I can say,” Scott said.
“We just had to get the ball rolling. I think now that we’ve kind of got that one out of the way, we got some momentum, and we’re gonna use that momentum for the next game.”
Team USA Men’s Wheelchair Basketball will play The Islanic Republic of Iran at the Ariake Arena on Friday, August 27, 2021 at 17:00 local time (4:00 AM EST).