Washington – Rui Hachimura scored 20 points and grabbed 13 rebounds in a clutch performance Monday as the Washington Wizards avoided being swept out of the NBA playoffs with a 122-114 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers.
Notching his first career playoff double-double, the second-year forward logged 42 minutes and knocked down several big baskets, including a dagger three-pointer that put the Wizards up 118-112 with 45.8 seconds left on the clock in the final quarter.
The top-seeded Sixers were looking to finish off the best-of-seven Eastern Conference opening-round series at Washington's Capital One Arena after winning all three previous games.
But their hopes of a sweep hit a hurdle when franchise center Joel Embiid fell hard late in the first quarter and left the game for good just before halftime with a sore right knee.
Washington was also hit by injury, with sharp-shooting forward Davis Bertans forced out early with a calf strain.
The Wizards trailed throughout the first half but took a 60-58 lead with 42 seconds left in the second quarter when Hachimura capped off a 9-2 run with an emphatic fast-break dunk.
Bradley Beal led all scorers with 27 points, while Russell Westbrook had 19 points, 14 assists and 21 rebounds in another triple-double performance for the Wizards.
Tobias Harris hit 21 points for the Sixers, who trailed by 14 late in the third quarter before opening the final frame on a 15-4 run.
Hachimura, whose 8-of-12 shooting included 3-from-6 from behind the arc, said a pep talk from Wizards guard Ish Smith helped put him in the right frame of mind for the game.
"Before the game I talked to Ish and he told me, 'We've got nothing to lose (so) just be aggressive tonight,'" said Hachimura.
"I was just trying to be aggressive on both ends, defensively and offensively. As a team I think we played together tonight, and that's why we got the win."
The 23-year-old Toyama Prefecture native gave credit for his momentous three-pointer to Beal, who drew multiple defenders before finding Hachimura open in the corner.
"That was a great pass by Brad. He brought two, three defenders, and I was in the corner wide open. He trusted me…so I had to shoot with confidence," he said.
The Wizards will try to extend their playoff run in another elimination game when the series returns to Philadelphia's Wells Fargo Center on Wednesday.
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