The evening game on the penultimate day of the wheelchair basketball competition at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games was the gold medal moment of truth for the women from the Netherlands and China. China with its first-ever appearance in a senior world wheelchair basketball final faced the reigning World Champions from the Netherlands.
Nonetheless, no one expected China to come into the final timidly. Since they had already beaten the Netherlands in the group stages of the competition. Looking at the broader scope of things, this final also meant: the strongest defence of the competition (China receiving an average of 33.7 points against them per game) versus the strongest offensive team of the competition (the Netherlands scoring an average of 68.7 points per game). How is the saying? Offense wins games, defence wins championships. Was that to be proved true at the end of this game.
As expected, China started the game focusing on their defence and relying on good ball movement to get open mid-range shots. The Dutch team followed a similar approach and so the score after 10 minutes stood at 9-12 in China’s favour.
For the second quarter, the team in orange decided to go against China by mimicking the latter’s game approach. Lock-down defence, moving the ball in offense and taking the open shots. The strategy transpired particularly successfully as the Dutch also managed to add some fast-break points to the mix, as the Chinese shots went wayward. The Netherlands outscored China 2-12 in the second quarter and went into halftime with a 21-14 lead.
The second part of the game picked up where it had ended before halftime, the Netherlands playing strong defence and making smart decisions on the other end of the court. By forcing the Chinese team into several 8 and 24-second violations, the Netherlands gently increased their lead. After 30 minutes the Netherlands held a 13 point advantage, 3 -20.
In the final quarter, the Netherlands stuck to the winning recipe. With a continuously strong team approach, the Netherlands maintaining a comfortable lead of around 15 points for most parts of the final minutes in this competition. Netherlands quick hands and smart court placements resulted in 18 Chinese turnovers (vs 7 Dutch turnovers). The turnovers, paired with a 31% field goal percentage was not enough for a Paralympic Games final.
In the end, the Dutch won Gold by authentically sticking to their offensive assets and combining it with a tremendous defensive effort. The strong offense and even stronger defence were what empowered the Dutch to their Gold Medal. The Netherlands deservedly won the Gold Medal game against China, 50-31
The Netherlands is now a reigning European and World Champion and freshly crowned Paralympic Champions.
For a full wheelchair basketball schedule and results click here.
Photo: Shingo Ito X-1/ Quote OIS