Konnichiwa! The Washington Wizards are in Japan to open their 4-game preseason slate. Rui Hachimura’s return to his home country brought the fans out in droves. Of course, Steph Curry’s presence may also have had something to do with the packed Saitama Super Arena. The electric atmosphere fueled a fun and meaningful first quarter, which may be all you can ask for in the preseason. The Wizards ended up losing 96-87, but they learned some things along the way.
The starting lineup featured a bit of intrigue as Kevin Broom detailed this week. Wes Unseld Jr. went the expected trio of Beal, Kristaps Porzingis, and Kyle Kuzma alongside Monte Morris at point guard and Rui Hachimura at small forward. Hachimura may very well win the job for the regular season, but it’s hard to draw too many conclusions from this game. Will Barton (back tightness) and Deni Avdija (groin strain), Hachimura’s primary competition, did not play. Also, it would have been pretty lame if the Wizards didn’t start Rui in front of his home fans.
The decision-by-default worked out great for the Wizards. After receiving flowers and addressing the crowd pregame, Hachimura led Washington with 13 points on 5 of 9 from the field. He fell one rebound short of a double double. He continued his strong play from the end of last season. He was aggressive and hunted his own looks. This stepback middie is a pretty tantalizing highlight.
Hachimura also played a little geeked up from the adrenaline, even diving on the floor for a loose ball in preseason. It wasn’t all great for Rui, though. He went 0-for-4 from three and missed three of his seven free throws. He also got himself into bad spots when looking for his own shots. But overall, Hachimura had an encouraging open to the preseason.
The same can be said of Bradley Beal. He came out like a bat out of hell with a tough step back jumper on the first possession of the game. He ran full speed on all his cuts and tried on defense. He’s not 100% from the wrist injury that held him out for 42 games last year. He looked gassed at times and didn’t have his bounce back. He’s at a good starting point for the season, but still has work to do. Beal and Porzingis hooked up for one of the highlights of the night. Unseld Jr. drew up a very nice set with Beal coming back through KP’s re-screen into the quick pick-and-roll. Beal scored curling off the original screen to open the game, so this counter worked great.
Bradley Beal and Kristaps Porzingis playing together might be pretty fun. pic.twitter.com/MSTZ4bSFZq— Chase Hughes (@ChaseHughesNBCS) September 30, 2022
The Wizards actually slightly outperformed the Warriors when the opposing defense was set. Washington scored 27 points on 25 possessions after a made basket while Golden State scored 24 points on as many possessions, according to PBP Stats. The Wizards just didn’t make enough to keep the Warriors out of transition and didn’t convert on their transition opportunities. Neither team could really shoot well, which makes sense after 20 or so hours on a plane. But Washington shot just 17.1% from deep. That’s a bit concerning. Also, both Washington centers failed to contain James Wiseman. He went off for 20 points and bullied DC’s bigs around at times.
Here’s some odds and ends. Taj Gibson led the Wizards in three point shots made with two. Kyle Kuzma got a huge ovation from the Japanese crowd, showing how far his brand reaches. He also had a nice looking dunk in the second quarter. Johnny Davis looked timid at times and went 0-for-5. But he did get to the line twice!
Alright! The next Wizards game is also in Japan on Sunday at 1 a.m. ET. Make sure to get some sleep tonight!