SAITAMA – Japan competed resiliently against world No. 5 Argentina but fell 108-93 in a warm-up contest for the FIBA World Cup at Saitama Super Arena on Thursday night.
Japan will play Germany and Tunisia in additional warm-up games at the same arena as part of a test event for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics on Saturday and Sunday, respectively. The Akatsuki Five will then face Tunisia one more time in a practice game on Tuesday.
Former Dallas Mavericks guard Nicolas Jose Brussino scored a team-high 21 points and ex-NBA power forward Luis Scola had 20 points to guide the South Americans to victory.
“The difference in experience between us and them led to the result,” Japan head coach Julio Lamas said after the game, which drew a near full-house crowd of 16,211. “We (had) issues both offensively and defensively and we are going to have to improve them ahead of the World Cup.”
The Argentine bench boss, who guided his native country’s squad to a fourth-place finish at the 2012 London Olympics, added: “We allowed them to make 3 point shots at a high percentage from the beginning and it cost us.”
Argentina went 16-for-28 from behind the 3-point arc. Small forward Gabriel Deck drained 4 of 5 3-point attempts in a 15-point performance.
Star forward Rui Hachimura racked up a game-high 23 points for Japan, the world’s 48th-ranked men’s team. Hachimura also grabbed seven rebounds. Yudai Baba finished with 17 points. Naturalized center Nick Fazekas, Yuta Watanabe and Daiki Tanaka also scored in double digits with 15, 13 and 12 points, respectively.
Japan outrebounded Argentina 36-28. Japan cleaned the glass for 10 offensive boards, while Argentine had two. Fazekas pulled down a game-high 10 rebounds.
Point guard Ryusei Shinoyama said that the Akatsuki Five showcased some positive traits on offensive and defense, but admitted that the squad still has a lot of room to develop, especially at the defensive end.
“When you allow your opponents (to be) wide open to take 3s as much as we did today, you’re not going to win,” the veteran player said.
Japan’s offense and defense did not click early and allowed the guests to build a 17-point lead during the second quarter. But the hosts, rallying around Hachimura and Baba, cut the deficit to 56-53 by halftime.
In the third quarter, Japan took its first lead since the beginning of the game, but Argentina, the 2004 Athens Olympics gold medalist, regrouped and extended its lead in the final quarter.