Philadelphia – Rui Hachimura became the first Japanese player to take the floor in an NBA playoff game Sunday, scoring 12 points and grabbing five rebounds for the Washington Wizards in a 125-118 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers.
The eighth-seeded Wizards made a contest of their first-round playoff series opener against the Eastern Conference’s top seed at Wells Fargo Center thanks to 33 points from Bradley Beal and double-digit contributions from five other players.
Philadelphia forward Tobias Harris led all scorers with 37 points, including 28 in the first half, while All-Star center Joel Embiid added 30 to help the Sixers take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.
Starting at power forward, Hachimura shot 5-for-8 from the field — including 2-for-2 from three-point range — in 36 minutes on the court. His baskets included a big three-pointer late in the final quarter as the Wizards rallied to narrow the deficit.
But things were less smooth on the defensive end for the 23-year-old, who was sometimes lost on rotations and struggled to contain Harris.
“The first half, (Harris) just made every shot,” Wizards head coach Scott Brooks said. “He’s a tough guard. Rui’s going to be better next game. But it wasn’t just all Rui. We switched off on (Harris) and he was just (scoring) on everybody.”
Brooks said Hachimura and center Alex Len, a fellow playoff debutant, performed admirably in their first postseason game.
“There have been a lot of players in the history of the game who have not had a good first playoff game. I thought Rui was pretty solid. I thought Alex was pretty solid. (Philadelphia) just played better than us,” Brooks said.
The teams will meet again for Game 2 in Philadelphia on Wednesday before the series moves to Washington’s Capital One Arena.
Elsewhere around the league, Devin Booker made the most of his playoff debut, scoring 34 points as the Phoenix Suns beat the reigning NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers in their Western Conference series opener. Booker led the 99-90 win for the second-seeded Suns over the Lakers, rallying his team after an injury to Phoenix veteran Chris Paul.
Barring an early spell in the first quarter when the Lakers led by five points, the Suns led throughout, maintaining a double-digit cushion for much of the second half and leading by 16 points early in the fourth.
“It was a big win for us,” Booker said, revealing that the early injury to Paul galvanized the Suns.
“Chris went down early and I think that got our team locked in and understanding that every possession matters. We huddled up and said we’ve all got to give a little bit more.”
Dillon Brooks and Ja Morant combined for 57 points as the eighth-seeded Memphis Grizzlies stunned the top-seeded Utah Jazz 112-109 in their series opener in Salt Lake City.
Brooks had a team high 31 points and Morant poured in 26 for the Grizzlies, who upset the NBA’s top team just two days after making the playoffs.
“They had a couple of guys that couldn’t guard me,” said Brooks.
In New York, Trae Young made a short jumper with one second left to lift the Atlanta Hawks to a 107-105 win over the New York Knicks in the first game of their series.
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