Fiba World Cup: Japan takes early lead in Asian race to Paris Olympics | Inquirer Sports

Fiba World Cup: Japan takes early lead in Asian race to Paris Olympics

Japan's Yuki Kawamura Fiba World Cup

Japan’s Yuki Kawamura celebrates their victory against Finland after the FIBA Basketball World Cup group F match between Japan and Finland at Okinawa Arena in Okinawa on August 27, 2023. (Photo by Yuichi YAMAZAKI / AFP)

Japan scored a breakthrough and became the first Asian country to join the win column by handing Finland its second defeat, 98-88, on Sunday night in the Fiba World Cup in Okinawa, Japan.

Naturalized power forward Joshua Hawkinson delivered a dominating performance with 28 points and 19 rebounds in his 38 minutes of play for the Japanese, who bounced back from an 81-63 loss to the NBA’s Dennis Schroder and Germany.

Half of Hawkinson’s score came from the charity stripe where he hit a near-perfect 14-of-15 clip.


Japan’s victory gave it a headstart in the race for Asia’s outright ticket to the 2024 Paris Olympics. The Philippines failed to match that win after falling to Angola, 80-70.

Finland actually led for the majority of the game and had a 10-point advantage at halftime, 46-36. But Japan found higher quality shots in the second half and outscored its Group H rival in the last quarter, 35-15.

Despite having virtually the same stats, the Japanese had a lot of help from its bench who contributed a whopping 61 points.


Finland had a lot of trouble defending and found itself fouling most of the time.

But a bright spot in the Finnish’s game was giving Phoenix Suns forward Yuta Watanabe a hard time and limiting his scoring to a measly four points on 1-of-6 shooting in his 30 minutes of play.


Yuki Kawamura added 25 points and nine assists for Japan while Makoto Hiejima and Keisei Tominaga chipped in 17 points each.

Utah Jazz forward Lauri Markannen was a silver lining for the Europeans, chipping in 27 points and 12 rebounds while Mikael Jantunen scored 13 and Edon Maxhuni 12.

Both countries will have a day’s rest before Japan battles Australia and Finland faces Germany on Tuesday.

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