The Japanese men’s national basketball team, who roster Phoenix Suns’ newly acquired wing Yuta Watanabe, played their third group play game on Tuesday morning against the 3rd-ranked Australian team. As expected, Japan lost and is now eliminated from the 2023 FIBA World Cup as they depart with a 1-2 record in Group E.
The Australian team was led by the 26 points from Oklahoma City Thunder guard Josh Giddey, who did so 10-of-18 shooting. He dished out 11 assists as well, which helped four other teammates reach double figures as Australia won easily, 109-89.
Yuta Watanabe, who scored just four points in Japan’s win against Finland, had a much more productive performance despite the loss. In 36:53 minutes Watanabe scored 24 points on 7-of-13 shooting. The lingering hamstring/ankle injury that has hampered him throughout the summer did not seem to effect his performance.
Perhaps a preview of things to come while in a Suns uniform, Yuta the Shoota went 4-of-8 from beyond the arc.
Australia took control from the opening tip, starting the game on an 8-2 run in front of the Japanese faithful in Okinawa. Even though the Aussies couldn’t find the range from deep — they began 1-of-12 from deep — they were on fire from two-point range, shooting at a 16-of-21 (76%) clip. They took a 57-35 led into the half.
Joshua Hawkinson once again put on a stellar performance for Japan, scoring 33 points for the team. But Hawkinson and Watanabe, who combined for 64% of Japan’s scoring output, simply didn’t have enough firepower around them to compete with the skilled and talented Australian team.
Yuta Watanabe, who appeared to pull his left hamstring in a Japan loss against Germany last week, has also been battling an ankle injury this summer. “Regarding my leg,” Yuta tweeted after the game, “I was often told to take a break or concentrate on the next season, but when I hurt my leg in the match against Angola and Germany, I thoroughly examined it and made sure it wasn’t a serious injury before participating. I am doing. Even if I do, the trainers and the team doctor will stop me.”
Drive and desire. Competitiveness and skill. Watanabe’s willingness to gut it out for his country, posting 24 points and grabbing 7 rebounds, is something we can look forward to in Phoenix. Of course, we’d rather he sat it out and preserve his health for the upcoming season. But I will not fault him.
This was the FIBA World Cup in his home country. There is no way he was going to miss out on this opportunity. He gutted it out and it was impressive.