Olympics: Cambage puts the Opals on her back, leads comeback win over Japan

Well that was close! The Opals have gotten out of jail today thanks to an absolutely dominant performance from Liz Cambage.

In what many predicted would be a comfortable win for the Opals, Japan came out firing and took it right up to the Australians.

Japan was active on defence and their offence was running smoothly – their pick and roll action was just slicing the Australians to pieces. Tokashiki tallied 9 points in the first quarter, and coupled with just 1 turnover, the Japanese were giving the Opals all sorts of problems.

The Opals weren’t playing great on either end of the court, and were lucky to find themselves only down 1 after the first quarter. This was thanks in large part to LeiLani Mitchell (hit 2 threes and added 3 assists) and Penny Taylor (5 points).

Despite having a huge size advantage over their Japanese opponents, the Opals weren’t going to work in the paint. Their missed shots were allowing Japan to use their strength – quick transition offence.

The Japanese skipped out to a 35-29 lead 4 minutes into the second quarter – forcing Brendan Joyce to call a time-out to calm things down. Camabage was subbed back in, and went straight to work in the paint. Cambage, along with Mitchell’s triples, kept the Aussies in it. At half-time, Japan led 50-48.

After getting back into the contest through hard work in the paint, the Opals went away from that in the third quarter and it cost them dearly. They could only manage 11 points in the quarter, whilst Japan scored 21.

Australia was struggling to keep the Japanese in front of them, with the speed of their guards causing headaches for the Opals. Furthermore, on the perimeter, the Opals simply weren’t closing out quick enough which was leading to open looks for Japan.

After three quarters, Japan was shooting a very impressive 67% from deep, whilst Australia was struggling at 35%.

The Opals found themselves down 16 points (61-77) with 8 minutes remaining in the game. This is when Cambage decided she was having no part in Japan beating Australia.

Cambage was blocking shots on the defensive end, then getting down the court and beasting in the paint. The Opals went on a 13-0 run, in under 3 minutes of play, to pull within 3 points of Japan. Cambage scored 8 of those points, and was feasting on offensive rebounds. At one point, she was tripled-teamed and still found a way to score.

Cambage undoubtedly saved the Opals from a shock loss, and her 18 points in the fourth capped off an absolutely dominance performance.

Whilst it was Cambage who carried the Opals back into the game, it was Penny Taylor who hit the dagger!

The Opals managed to escape with the 92-86 win, and whilst it wasn’t pretty for the majority of the game it may just be the game the Opals needed. To find a way, even when the opposition is firing and you find yourselves down big, to grind out a win is a huge positive. There is plenty of things for the Opals to work on and I’m sure Joyce and his team will be focused on utilising their strengths to their advantage more in their next match.

Cambage finished with the monster stat-line of 37 points (16/22 FG, 5/6 FT), 10 rebounds, 3 blocks, 2 assists and +23 in just 25 minutes of game time. Mitchell, who kept the Opals in touch early, finished with 18 points, 7 assists and 6 rebounds. Taylor was her usual self, with an all-round performance of 13 points, 7 assists, 6 rebounds and +19.

Watch the Opals take on Belarus from 3:15am AEST on Sunday morning.

Box Score | Highlights

Hayley Wildes

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I watch basketball a lot. I write about basketball a lot. I collect a lot of basketball jerseys. Passionate fan of the C's ☘️ #AllAbout18

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