New York – Washington Wizards rookie Rui Hachimura scored a team-high 21 points along with eight rebounds, one assist and one steal in 30 minutes on the court in Friday’s loss to the Phoenix Suns.
In their first game of the NBA’s restart, Hachimura, the Wizards’ 2019 first-round pick, and Washington kept the game competitive but lost 125-112 at the Disney-owned ESPN Wide World of Sports complex in Florida.
“We started off well but then they started controlling the tempo of the game by using full-court defensive pressure,” Hachimura said.
“We lost the game but I’m glad to have played in an official game, it’s been so long. We have to learn from this loss and use it as motivation to win the next one.”
The Wizards entered the bubble without their top two scorers, Bradley Beal and Davis Bertans. Beal, the league’s No. 2 scorer at 30.5 a game, is out with a shoulder injury. Bertans doesn’t want to risk injuring his surgically repaired knees with free agency upcoming. Also, John Wall has missed the entire season with a torn Achilles tendon.
Still, Washington began the restart just 1 1/2 games out of making it to a play-in situation.
Phoenix went on a 16-0 run in the second quarter and led 67-52 at the break. Washington scored the first seven points of the second half, but Phoenix held on and led 89-81 at the end of the third quarter.
The Wizards kept fighting back and scoring and trailed by seven at the four-minute mark of the fourth quarter.
Suns guards Devin Booker and Ricky Rubio combined for 17 free-throw attempts and made all of them. Booker finished with a game-high 27 points, and Rubio added 15 points, nine assists and three steals.
The Suns pulled within five games of eighth-place Memphis in their long-shot bid to make the Western Conference playoffs.
“I liked everything,” Booker said. “We were communicating. We played together … and communicated through tough stretches of the game just as much as when we were rolling. So that’s what I love to see.”
Deandre Ayton added 24 points and 12 rebounds for Phoenix. Ayton, a 211-cm center who hadn’t made a 3-pointer in 101 career games, hit two on Friday.
“I’ve been working on this thing my whole life though,” he said. “I could have been shooting. It’s just that I’m more comfortable with the system around me.”
Trail Blazers 140, Grizzlies 135 (OT)
In Lake Buena Vista, Florida, CJ McCollum scored 33 points, teaming with Damian Lillard for 11 of Portland’s 16 in overtime, and the Trail Blazers pulled out a desperately needed victory to resume their season.
Lillard finished with 29 points and nine assists to help Portland boost its hopes for a seventh consecutive playoff appearance. Carmelo Anthony added 21 points as the Trail Blazers moved within 2 1/2 games of the Grizzlies for the No. 8 spot in the Western Conference.
Yuta Watanabe, who is on a two-way contract with Memphis, was not on the roster.
On Wednesday, Watanabe spoke to the Japanese media and said, “I’m really excited about the restart of the season, and I think we are in a great spot right now. I’d like to go see Rui while we’re both here (at Disney World) and perhaps go watch his game.”