WASHINGTON -- There was disappointment and frustration for the Wizards after their loss to the Chicago Bulls on Tuesday night, as they let a close game devolve into a DeMar DeRozan highlight reel in the fourth quarter. But success is relative for the Wizards at the moment, as their playoff hopes are all but extinguished.
So, they can take what Rui Hachimura did as a positive, as he scored a season-high 21 points and on a good shooting night; 8-for-10 from the field, 2-for-3 from three and 3-for-4 from the free-throw line. He stretched out to a season-high 31 minutes and also added four rebounds.
Wizards head coach Wes Unseld Jr. continues to be impressed by Hachimura's growth on the offensive end.
"He was good. His level of aggression, making quick decisions; I think he's getting better in that area. Just his ability to carve out space, get to the paint, finish through contact and he's not hesitating on his threes. I like the balance of the paint three, live ball attack; all those things," Unseld Jr. said.
Hachimura, 24, said it was just a matter of him being aggressive, which is a common explanation he offers after big scoring nights. He wasn't entirely happy because he felt the Wizards "needed" the win, which was on the first night of a back-to-back and would have been three straight overall for the team, a feat they haven't accomplished since January.
Hachimura is one of a host of young players currently in the Wizards' rotation with Bradley Beal and Kyle Kuzma both injured. He, along with Deni Avdija, Corey Kispert and others are trying to develop winning habits and they are running into teams like the Bulls who have veteran players who have already been through that process.
DeRozan, for instance, was too much for them to handle. He had 13 of his 32 points in the fourth quarter and Hachimura was among the Wizards who couldn't get stops on him when they needed to.
Part of learning how to win for Hachimura is being more consistent on the defensive end.
"It's tough. I've been here three years now, it's really tough to win one game in the NBA. It's not easy," Hachimura said.
One of the best moments for the Wizards involved Hachimura and Avdija, showcasing two of the team's recent first-round picks. Avdija broke loose on a fastbreak and set Hachimura up for a difficult layup with a behind-the-back pass.
Hachimura said he didn't expect Avdija to go behind the back and nearly fumbled the catch. But he was able to not only catch it, but also made a difficult reverse layup to avoid a defender.
Hachimura is enjoying the process of developing chemistry with Avdija, now in his second year playing with him.
"We have a connection for sure," Hachimura said.
Hachimura happened to have his best scoring night of the season on the day the Wizards unveiled their new cherry blossom-themed alternate uniforms, which are set to debut next year. Hachimura is from Japan, the country which gifted the famous trees over a century ago.
Hachimura called the jerseys, which are predominantly pink, "pretty cool," but said he needs to see the whole fit before giving his final opinion.
"It depends on the shoes, though. I haven't seen my shoes yet for next year," he said.