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Ish Smith has career night to lead historic bench effort for Wizards vs. Nuggets

Ish Smith has career night to lead historic bench effort for Wizards vs. Nuggets

WASHINGTON -- Wizards head coach Scott Brooks knew he would be asked about a variety of subjects following his team's surprising win over the Denver Nuggets on Saturday night, but he opened his postgame press conference by stating his preference.

"Can we just talk about Ish?"

To be fair, where else would we start? Ish Smith has long been a solid NBA point guard and this year has arguably been the second-most consistent player on the Wizards. But never before had he played quite like he did against the Nuggets.

Smith set new career-highs in points (32), field goals made (15) and field goal attempts (24). He didn't start the game, but ran away with minutes at the point guard spot. He played 34 and closed the game, while starter Isaiah Thomas was capped at 17.

Brooks had no choice but to roll with the hot hand. 

"The good thing is that it was all in the flow of the offense. It was the way we want to play. We want to play with pace," Smith said.

Smith led a Wizards effort that featured a franchise-record 92 bench points. It was the second-most bench points for any team since at least 1970-71, according to Elias.

These days, the Wizards' bench has no choice but to step up and compensate for a starting lineup ravaged by injuries. All-Star Bradley Beal missed another game on Saturday and it left the Wizards with two starters who were only on the team thanks to injury hardship exceptions.

Smith not only got his points, he got others in the second unit in rhythm with eight assists. Troy Brown Jr. had 25 points, Anzejs Pasecniks added 13 and Isaac Bonga had a career-high 15.

What does Smith does best is run the Wizards' offense at a high speed. He dribbles a lot, in and out of the paint and he creates passing lanes as he shifts the defense.

"Dribbling is something I've always done," Smith said. "I have to use the gift I was given."

Against the Nuggets, he had a series of crossovers that kept one of the best defenses in the NBA off balance. By the fourth quarter, he was drawing absurd reactions from his teammates on the bench.

After one, Gary Payton II fanned Smith with a towel as he took a seat, as if to cool him off. Another got injured center Thomas Bryant to take off his suit jacket, untuck his dress shirt and scream as he stomped away from the bench.

"It was crazy, it was ridiculous. Literally, it was like give Ish the ball and get out the way," Brown said.

It was a uniquely fun night at Capital One Arena for a team and a fanbase that has endured a lot of losing this season. It was Smith at his peak, the wily 10-year NBA veteran still killing defenders with his trademark quickness.

Smith has been reliable for the Wizards while basically everyone else on their roster has been beset by injuries at one point or another. Brooks just wants to make sure nothing happens to him.

When asked about Smith's dependability, he knocked on the wooden table he was sitting at.

"I don't want to even talk about that. I just want to make sure that he stays healthy," he said.

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Wizards rookie Rui Hachimura tops the list of jersey sales in Japan

Wizards rookie Rui Hachimura tops the list of jersey sales in Japan

Today the NBA announced that Washington Wizards forward Rui Hachimura has the most popular jersey in Japan.

Sales from NBAStore.jp, the official online NBA store in Japan, put Hachimura at the top of the list, followed by Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James and Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry. The rankings were based on online sales during the 2019-2020 NBA season through January.

Hachimura's ranking shouldn't come as a surprise, as the rookie became the first Japanese-born player selected in the first round of the NBA draft when the Wizards took him ninth overall last summer.

Not only was Hachimura the top-selling jersey, but he also accounted for 24% of all jersey sales. Additionally, the Wizards made up 13% of all team merchandise sales. 

The Lakers topped the list of most popular team merchandise, followed by the Wizards and the Warriors. The Brooklyn Nets and Dallas Mavericks rounded out the top five.

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Report: Steph Curry will return from hand surgery against Wizards

Report: Steph Curry will return from hand surgery against Wizards

Steph Curry will return to game action when the Golden State Warriors host the Wizards on Sunday night, The Athletic reported Tuesday. The game will come almost four months to the day after Curry broke his left hand during a collision with Phoenix Suns center Aron Baynes on Oct. 30.

The Warriors (12-14) enter play Tuesday with the worst record in the NBA having played most of the season without Curry or shooting guard Klay Thompson, who tore his ACL during the NBA Finals last summer.

Curry was cleared for contact Saturday and told reporters that March 1 had been his target date for a while.

"It's always been March 1," Curry said, per ESPN's Nick Friedell. "But that for me mostly is just to give you a target. You have to have something to work towards in the rehab process because that gives you a barometer for each week, what you're building towards."

The Wizards are hoping for the healthy returns of Davis Bertans (sore right knee) and Thomas Bryant (right foot) to the lineup against the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday and will presumably go into Sunday’s contest with a clean injury report outside John Wall.

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