Rui Hachimura entered the Olympics with plenty on his shoulders as the best player on Japan's men's basketball team as they host in the city of Tokyo. That made for an intriguing matchup played in the early morning hours on Thursday in the U.S., as Hachimura faced off with Luka Doncic of Slovenia, one of the NBA's best players at only 22 years old.
With Bradley Beal having exited Team USA before the tournament tipped off, Hachimura was left as the headline player representing the Wizards in the Olympics. Thursday's game was one to circle on the calendar, as Hachimura was going to be opposite an NBA superstar in a game where they were each the stars of their teams.
Hachimura and Doncic are of similar size, both 230 pounds according to Basketball-Reference and with just a one-inch difference in height. But they are very different players and were not assigned to guard each other in the game, which Slovenia won 116-81.
Only on rare occasions did they match up directly, like on a pair of plays in the first half when Hachimura contested two missed threes by Doncic. Otherwise, they dueled with their scoring, each carrying the lion's share of their teams' offense. That led to plenty of points for each of them.
Hachimura had 34 points with seven rebounds, three assists and a block, and shot 13-for-28. Doncic had 25 points, shooting a better clip at 53.3%, to go along with seven rebounds and seven assists. He even had two blocks.
Hachimura, though, had himself a night with highlight plays. He started off a bit shaky, but then got going with a steady dose of turnaround jumpers, probably at least 10 of them. Once he caught a rhythm, Hachimura was sinking shots off the dribble with confidence. In the second half, he got free for a lefthanded slam on the fastbreak. Later, he bullied his way into an and-1 at the rim.
On one standout play, Hachimura drove into the lane and fired a no-look pass to his left, finding an open Daiki Tanaka for three. He also had an emphatic block when he helped baseline and swatted it away from right in front of the rim.
Hachimura played very well despite the loss, but the result dropped Japan to 0-2 in Olympic play and threw water on their hopes for a medal. Hachimura and Japan will play next on Sunday against Iran.