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Rui Hachimura to battle top rookies Kendrick Nunn and Tyler Herro in Wizards vs. Heat

Rui Hachimura to battle top rookies Kendrick Nunn and Tyler Herro in Wizards vs. Heat

As the Wizards travel to Miami to take on the Heat on the second leg of a back-to-back, standout rookie Rui Hachimura is set to square off against two of his chief competitors in the rookie of the year race. 

2019 first-round pick Tyler Herro and undrafted former G-League star Kendrick Nunn have played a large part in the Heat's 15-6 start. 

TUNE IN NOTE: The Wizards and Heat tip-off on Friday at 8 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Washington

But Miami is one of the most difficult teams to play against. They're tremendous defensively thanks to Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo anchoring Erik Spolestra's scheme, and they consistently put pressure on defenses by driving to the hoop. 

The Wizards put on a very impressive performance against the Sixers, but they can't expect to play any worse and come away with a win on a back-to-back in South Beach. 

Here's a breakdown of who you should know heading into this matchup between the Wizards and Heat. 

Tyler Herro-Kendrick Nunn rookie duo

One of the biggest weaknesses for the Heat over the last few years was shot creation. Against good defenses, the Heat routinely struggled to generate good looks and remained at the bottom of the Eastern Conference playoff picture because of it. 

Signing Jimmy Butler was a great start, but they still needed more creation on offense to make legitimate noise this season they were going to have to find offense from somewhere other than him. 

So far this season, they've found it in Herro and Nunn. 

Herro is averaging 13.6 points off the bench on 39 percent from three while Nunn is posting an impressive 15.3 points and 3.4 assists while starting every game for the Heat as an undrafted rookie who played in the G-League all of last season.

Rui Hachimura exceeding everyone's expectations in his rookie season and is coming off one of his best games yet in the form of a 27-point, seven-rebound outing against Joel Embiid and the Sixers Thursday night. 

If it weren't for Ja Morant's greatness, Hachimura, Nunn and Herro would be at the forefront of the Rookie of the Year Award conversation. It should be a treat to watch these young players go after each other Friday night. 

Jimmy Butler

While the rookies have garnered most of the attention in Miami so far this season, it's been Butler quietly driving everything on both ends of the floor. 

He's an elite defender who will almost certainly be tasked with defending Bradley Beal, and he's a force on the offensive end who's incredibly difficult to keep out of the paint. 

Butler's the type of player who will constantly put pressure on the Wizards Friday night, and on a back-to-back following the biggest win of the year, that's a bad mix for Washington. 

It's hard to expect the Wizards to come out and put together a winning effort after such an improbable win over Philly, but you never know. Getting a big win in front of your home fans is the kind of thing that can lead to a run of multiple victories. 

The Wizards and Heat tip-off on Friday at 8 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Washington. 

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Rookie Rui Hachimura does full practice with Wizards, return not far away

Rookie Rui Hachimura does full practice with Wizards, return not far away

WASHINGTON -- The long-awaited return of Wizards rookie Rui Hachimura is getting closer, as he participated in a full practice on Saturday for the first time since suffering a groin injury back on Dec. 16.

Hachimura, 21, had no limitations, per head coach Scott Brooks. He went through all of their drills and full-contact scrimmages.

"He did well. He went through everything. That's another good day," Brooks said.

The final hurdle for Hachimura at this point involves getting into game shape. His conditioning is not close to midseason form after missing seven weeks of games.

Brooks said Hachimura definitely will not return before the end of the team's current road trip, which ends on Tuesday in Milwaukee. After that, however, it could be a matter of days.

 

The Wizards will return to Washington after playing the Bucks for a six-game homestand. It seems likely he is back by the time it's over.

The ninth overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, Hachimura has had a strong rookie season so far, averaging 13.9 points and 5.8 rebounds per game while shooting 48.2 percent from the field. The Wizards have gone 7-12 since he's been out.

Hachimura suffered the injury when he was inadvertently kicked between the legs by teammate Isaac Bonga. He required a minor procedure and was away from the team for weeks before slowly working his way back to basketball activities and then participating in practices.

Saturday was a big step in his recovery and it now puts the finish line into focus.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports. Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Capitals and Wizards games easily from your device.

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Watch: We mic'd up Thomas Bryant when he cheered on Indiana in matchup vs. Maryland

Watch: We mic'd up Thomas Bryant when he cheered on Indiana in matchup vs. Maryland

When the Maryland Terps faced Indiana for the first time in Big Ten play this season in early January, one famous former Hoosiers player sat in the stands cheering his team on. Wizards center Thomas Bryant allowed NBC Sports Washington to follow him throughout the game, where he showed his trademark enthusiasm for his former team. 

"It feels great," he said when asked by NBC Sports Washington's Chase Hughes how it feels to be watching his alma mater. "It seems like yesterday I was just playing against Maryland myself."

MORE COLLEGE HOOPS: THE BIG TWENTY REVISITS UVA'S HIGHEST HIGH, LOWEST LOW IN NCAA TOURNAMENT

Unfortunately for Bryant, the Hoosiers lost that game. But they'll get another shot at the Terps on Sunday. 

But Bryant, who will have his own game to suit up for when the Wizards take on the Hawks, won't be there to cheer. But when he did have the chance - he was vocal. After all, he told Hughes, that's just the type of fan and teammate he is.

"No matter if I'm out there or not, I'm going to be on my brother's side," he said.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports. Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Capitals and Wizards games easily from your device.

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