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Rui Hachimura posterized Turkey’s Ilyasova in loss

Rui Hachimura posterized Turkey’s Ilyasova in loss

Team Japan opened group play of the FIBA World Cup with a disappointing 86-67 defeat at the hands of Turkey early Sunday morning, but Rui Hachimura was still a force to be reckoned with on the court.

The Wizards rookie’s biggest highlight of the contest came late in the second quarter, when he took advantage of a turnover to force a one-on-one breakaway with the Milwaukee Bucks’ Ersan Ilyasova. Spoiler: It didn’t end well for the Turkish forward.

Hachimura finished with 15 points, seven rebounds, two assists and two steals in the tournament-opening loss.

Team Japan takes the court again Tuesday when it faces off with the Czech Republic at 4:30 a.m. ET. The game is available for streaming on ESPN+.

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Rui Hachimura may have had his best NBA game yet against the Sixers

Rui Hachimura may have had his best NBA game yet against the Sixers

WASHINGTON -- When Wizards coaches and executives rave about Rui Hachimura's potential to be a two-way player, they mean he can play just like he did on Thursday night in the team's 119-113 win over the Sixers.

It was arguably Hachimura's best game yet as an NBA player, a well-rounded performance of 27 points (11-18 FG), seven rebounds and two steals. He didn't set career-highs in any major category, but he was effective on both ends of the floor.

On offense, he lived in the midrange, making the Sixers pay for leaving him open from 15 to 20 feet out. He had 15 points in the second quarter alone.

And on the other end, he did an excellent job playing team defense. He kept an eye on his man while also knowing when to strike on double-teams.

Add it all up and even Hachimura believes it was probably his most complete game so far.

"I think it might be," Hachimura said. "I helped the team defensively and offensively."

There was one play on defense that stood out that didn't show up in the box score. The Wizards employed double-teams on Sixers star Joel Embiid all night and in the second half Hachimura charged in to help with Embiid in the post. He swatted at the ball with perfect timing to bounce it off Embiid's knee and out of bounds for a turnover.

It was the type of play that displayed Hachimura's instincts for team defense. And though it may take time for him to develop into a reliable on-ball defender, like most young players, he can be effective by doing things away from the ball just like that.

Brooks is already seeing rapid improvement from Hachimura defensively.

"They have two guys that are incredible at shot fakes [Embiid and Al Horford], and we all know that he's had some problems with that early in the year. But the last couple of games, especially tonight, he has stayed down on all those shot fakes. So that's another growing area of his game on a defensive end," Brooks said.

Offensively, though, is where Hachimura is shining most so far. And after scoring 27 against the Sixers, he is now averaging 22 over his last four games while shooting 54.4 percent. His 14.1 points per game average on the season is fifth among rookies and his 5.7 rebounds per game are second. He also has the highest offensive rating (112.9) in his rookie class.

Hachimura has to learn to be more consistent, like most rookies, and especially on defense. But the potential for him to be a two-way player is certainly there, as he showed on Thursday night.

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How the Wizards frustrated Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons enough to get a win

How the Wizards frustrated Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons enough to get a win

WASHINGTON -- Thursday's win over the Sixers may not have been the best defensive performance of this season for the Wizards, but it's up there.

Granted, the bar has not been set very high. They are quite literally on pace to be one of the worst defenses in NBA history.

And some of the numbers at first glance suggest they weren't even that great against Philadelphia in Thursday's win. They still allowed 113 points, the Sixers shot 53.2 percent from the field and made 13-of-28 threes, good for 46.4 percent.

But the Sixers also had 21 turnovers, the Wizards outscored them 40-22 in the second quarter and Philly's bench managed only 18 points. And of the turnovers, 15 came from Joel Embiid (eight) and Ben Simmons (seven), their two best players. 

"We just wanted to show a lot of activity [and] we wanted to be aggressive," head coach Scott Brooks said. "We wanted to throw some frustration into the game by throwing extra hands at their main players, and I thought the guys did a good job."

The extra hands were in the form of all-out double-teams, particularly on Embiid in the post. He leads the NBA in post-ups per game and once he got locked in to one with a defender, the Wizards sent help.

Embiid still ended up with 26 points and 21 rebounds, but the eight turnovers were killer. All in all, Moe Wagner and Ian Mahinmi felt good about how they fared as the ones assigned to him all night.

"The dude had 20 and 20 like it was nothing. But we did a good job," Wagner said.

Both Mahinmi and Wagner credited the double-teams as being of help. They knew they had reinforcements and that gave them extra confidence. They also used their fouls and sent him to the line 14 times.

"The good thing is that it's never really a one-on-one thing with Joel. We get help left and right. My teammates have my back," Mahinmi said.

As for Simmons, Brooks pointed to the job second-year wing Isaac Bonga did on him. Bonga is 6-foot-9 and a scrappy defender and, though Simmons had 17 points and 10 assists, Bonga may have done as well guarding him as any Wizards player has since Simmons entered the league. He had previously been a pain for the Wizards, so much so they once intentionally fouled him enough to set an NBA record for free throw attempts in a quarter.

In a way, injuries may have paved the way for the Wizards' defensive effort on Thursday. Isaiah Thomas was out with a calf injury and he would have been a liability against the Sixers, who have an unusually tall lineup. And Thomas Bryant was out with a foot injury, which gave Mahinmi a rare chance to play in what was his season debut.

Mahinmi's best attributes are on defense and that showed in the Wizards' win.

"I'm not super, super happy with what I did. But I will take that for a first game," he said.

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