Olympics 2021 Men's Basketball: Japan vs Spain Prediction & Match Preview - July 26th, 2021

Spanish stars Ricky Rubio and Marc Gasol
Spanish stars Ricky Rubio and Marc Gasol

FIBA World Cup champions Spain will take on hosts Japan on Monday in both teams' 2020 Tokyo Olympics opener.

Both sides come into the tournament after some positive preparation games and will be demanding a lot from their NBA stars to help lift them out of a tough Group C with fellow competitors Slovenia and Argentina.

Spain will be looking to follow up their 2019 Gold Medal at the FIBA World Cup with another podium finish. They were impressive in their build-up wins over France and Iran. Japan, meanwhile, will be looking forward to their first appearance at an Olympics basketball tournament since 1976.

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Match Details

Fixture - Japan vs Spain | 2020 Tokyo Olympics Basketball

Date & Time - Monday, July 26th; 9:00 PM JST (July 26th; 8:00 AM ET).

Venue - Saitama Super Arena, Tokyo

Japan Preview

Toronto Raptors forward Yuta Watanabe
Toronto Raptors forward Yuta Watanabe

Despite being the hosts of the tournament, the Japanese basketball team are the lowest-ranked side competing at No.42 in the world. As a result, they will be relying heavily on captain and Washington Wizards star Rui Hachimura and Toronto Raptors backup forward Yuta Watanabe.

Both NBA stars impressed in Japan's most recent two preparation wins against Belgium and France last week. Watanabe grabbed 18 points and 9 rebounds against the French, while Hachimura put up 19 points and seven boards. In their 87-59 rout of Belgium, Hachimura scored 24 points on 9-14 from the field.

Although friendlies mean very little in the bigger picture and the French team were ill-prepared for their matchup, the Japanese side will come into the tournament with nothing to lose. There is a lot to be said for playing on home soil and while there won't be fans in the arena, the players will want to do their nation proud. Who knows, they could even pull off an upset and sneak out of their group.

Also Check out: Japan Olympic Basketball Team 2021

Team News: Japan

A lot of Japan's offensive play will come through their frontcourt with Watanabe and Hachimura taking up the two forward positions.

Guard Makoto Hiejima also impressed in Japan's warm-up games and scored 15 points against the French. He will likely keep his place alongside Daiki Tanaka while small-ball center Gavin Edwards should start in the paint.

Although they were able to outlast the French team, the Japanese frontcourt will have their work cut out for them against defensively-minded Spanish veteran Marc Gasol.

Japan Predicted Lineup

Point Guard - Makoto Hiejima | Shooting Guard - Daiki Tanaka | Small Forward - Yuta Watanabe | Power Forward - Rui Hachimura | Center - Gavin Edwards

Spain Preview

Spain won bronze at the 2016 Olympics
Spain won bronze at the 2016 Olympics

Spain have been one of the most successful basketball nations in the 21st century outwith the USA's dominance. They have two FIBA World Cup golds to their name and have been on the podium at the last three Olympics with two silvers and a bronze. They have also won the EuroBasket tournament three times in the past five contests.

Although their squad is loaded with NBA talent, it is an aging one. Nevertheless, they arrive in Japan as strong favorites to challenge Team USA for the top prize. Floor general Ricky Rubio has starred in the team's warm-up matches, scoring 23 points against both the U.S. and France.

In the frontcourt, Spain have an array of options, with both Gasol brothers competing as well as Willy and Juancho Hernangomez. Outside of their NBA and former NBA stars, the Spanish side also boasts one of the most decorated players in EuroLeague history, Sergio Llull, in the backcourt.

Also Check out: Spain Olympic Basketball Team 2021

Team News: Spain

Predicting the starting lineup for Spain is tricky considering their multitude of options throughout the strong roster. They may be fluid during the game, giving plenty of time to a number of the players should they see this as the easiest of the three group stage games.

There will most certainly be some NBA experience among Spain's starters, though, with Ricky Rubio's place nailed in the backcourt and Lakers center Marc Gasol set to feature. Sergio Llull could start alongside Rubio in the backcourt due to extensive history with the side in previous tournaments, while Alberto Abalde has averaged over 20 minutes in the team's previous three games.

Among the subs are former NBA legend Pau Gasol and former Oklahoma City Thunder guard Alex Abrines.

Spain Predicted Lineup

Point Guard - Ricky Rubio | Shooting Guard - Sergio Llull | Small Forward - Alberto Abalde | Power Forward - Marc Gasol | Center - Willy Hernangomez

Japan vs Spain Prediction

In a matchup that will be hugely exciting for basketball fans in Japan, we are likely to see experience come to the fore. Although the Japanese team can look to Hachimura and Watanabe for points, they will both have to have huge nights if the hosts are to succeed in this contest.

Spain should see out this game comfortably with Ricky Rubio running the show. They have too much tournament experience to let this game slip by and will be hoping to top Group C.

Where to watch Japan vs Spain

Eurosport will have extensive coverage of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics in Europe, as will Discovery +.

NBC will be showing Olympic coverage in the USA. The network will be spreading the Games across NBC, NBC Sports, NBC's Olympic Channel, CNBC, USA, and the Golf Channel. Those wishing to watch the action can tune in on NBC's Olympic website, NBC.com, or the NBC app.

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Edited by Parimal
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