Like most on the Wizards, Tuesday was a postseason debut to forget for Rui Hachimura.
In the first game of the NBA Play-In Tournament against Boston, Hachimura struggled mightily against the Celtics and ran into foul trouble early. He played just 17 minutes.
But 48 hours later, he and everyone else looked brand new in a dominating 142-115 win over the Pacers at Capital One Arena as the Wizards clinched their spot in the Eastern Conference Playoffs. Game 1 against the 76ers is scheduled for Sunday at 1 pm.
“Last game, it was just awful. Everybody was into foul trouble, especially me. I had like two, three quick ones. It was one of those games. After the game, right after the game, we just said, ‘Forget about this game.’”
Hachimura played 25:24 and put up 18 points, tied with Russell Westbrook for the second-most on the Wizards. Hachimura added two assists, four rebounds and committed just one personal foul.
And with their season on the line, Hachimura was exactly what the Wizards needed him to be.
“As a team, we just talked about it,” Hachimura said. “The whole team, we’ve got to just step up our game. It’s playoff time, so we’ve just got to play our best. The coaches always talk about the playoffs, it’s different. Every single play, it counts, it matters, especially from the jump ball. Today, we did a great job from the beginning.”
Hachimura will now be the first Japanese player to play in the NBA Playoffs, when Game 1 against the 76ers tips off Sunday.
If the play-in tournament served as a brief glimpse of playoff basketball, he’ll certainly get the entire message when they face the top seed in the Eastern Conference. There, he hopes that he’s gotten the poor postseason performances out of his system.
“I like the fact that we all had an edge to us,” coach Scott Brooks said. “You can ask some of our coaches in our two hour zoom, I had an edge to us. We were disappointed with the way we played in Boston. We had a lot of things, foul trouble, whatever it is, we didn’t play well. Everybody took charge of that, took ownership of that, and we wanted to come back better. Rui comes back the same way, he came back with an edge. You can see he wanted to play much better than the previous outing.”