New York – Rui Hachimura matched his season high with 17 points Saturday, but he could not stop the Washington Wizards' 128-124 defeat to the Miami Heat following the last-minute withdrawal of star shooting guard Bradley Beal due to the NBA's coronavirus safety protocols.
In the absence of Beal, as well as former MVP Russell Westbrook, who was out with a quadriceps strain, Hachimura looked to step up his production against last season's NBA finalists at Washington's Capital One Arena.
But foul trouble forced coach Scott Brooks to bench Hachimura early as the Wizards, who also lost center Thomas Bryant to a knee injury in the opening quarter, took their third straight defeat and dropped to 2-8 for the season.
Led by backup guard Garrison Mathews with 22 points and Israeli-Serbian rookie Deni Avdija with 20, the Wizards trailed narrowly at halftime before a dominant third quarter from Miami, who received a 31-point contribution from second-year guard Tyler Herro.
"It was hard to get into rhythm having to sit so much due to foul trouble," said Hachimura, who also had five rebounds and a pair of assists in 26 minutes.
"Things were going well for the team in the first half, but we couldn't maintain it for the win."
Despite the disruption caused by the short-notice loss of Beal, the NBA's top scorer, the 22-year-old Hachimura said the whole team understood the importance of the safety protocol.
"The NBA is very serious about this. We all want to finish the season," said the Toyama Prefecture native, who also scored 17 in Washington's 116-107 loss to the Boston Celtics the previous day.
Beal has not tested positive for the coronavirus but was forced to quarantine as part of contact-tracing measures, according to U.S. media reports.
In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.