Rui Hachimura’s play provides silver lining amid Wizards’ losing streak

Washington Wizards Rui Hachimura (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Washington Wizards Rui Hachimura (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images) /

The Washington Wizards have now lost three straight games. But a silver lining can be found in the profound play by rookie forward Rui Hachimura.

It’s been a quiet beginning to Rui Hachimura’s rookie campaign in Washington–until now.

Over a three-game span that saw the Wizards finish 0-3, the rookie forward made developmental strides nightly. From guarding the likes of LeBron James to scoring a career-high 30 points.

What Washington has seen in Hachimura’s last three games might just be a larger foreshadowing of what’s to come for his career in the NBA. If nothing else, it’s a positive amidst the negative.

On where the Wizards can find a silver lining amidst this losing streak, and just what it means for Rui Hachimura going forward.

Lighting it up in LA

When the Wizards traveled to Los Angeles last week, Hachimura had a couple of tough assignments. For the first time in his career, Hachimura would be matched up with one of the best players of all time in LeBron James.

And then on night two in LA, he was assigned another all-time great in Kawhi Leonard.

I paid close attention to the opening quarters in both LA games, just to monitor Hachimura’s energy right out of the gate. And both nights, he came out running.

Against the Lakers on Friday night, Hachimura put up eight points and five rebounds in the first quarter. That includes a baseline jumper over James to put Washington on the board, and a layup against the King as well:

From tip-off, the Wizards’ rookie looked fierce and more engaged than he’s been at any point this season. And that trend would continue for the next seven quarters of play at Staples Center.

His eight first-quarter points would help to fuel the Wizards to a 15-4 lead just four minutes into the game. After that, Hachimura and the rest of the Wizards hit a wall.

Hachimura’s impact, however, was undeniable in that first half, even with Washington down by 21 at halftime. Coming out of the half, fresh once more,  Hachimura picked up right where he left off.

Hachimura scored 8-points and grabbed four rebounds in the third quarter alone.

At this point, a lot of his buckets are not coming against James or Anthony Davis at the rim. Instead, Hachimura was taking open jump shots, which is just another display of confidence from the rookie. He would finish with 16 points and nine rebounds, seeing little time in the fourth quarter with the game out of reach.

Washington was hoping to rebound against the Clippers, who have their own star duo in Leonard and Paul George. But it wasn’t in the cards for the Wizards, who fell 150-125.

What was in the cards, however, was a career-night for Hachimura.

Once again, the rookie forward came out of the gate running, finishing the first quarter with nine points and four assists. He scored baskets to both Leonard and George between the second and third quarters and did what he could to keep up with them defensively.

He and Bradley Beal provided an intensity on both ends throughout the majority of the blowout loss to the Clippers, which speaks volumes about not only about Beal, but even more so his rookie teammate. At the end of a tough four-game road trip and during a blowout, they were still fighting.

Hachimura played up until about midway through the fourth quarter, and he was benched shortly after scoring his 30th point on the night. This makes him one of just three this season to have notched 30+ or more points in a game this season (Eric Paschall, Ja Morant).

The Center of Attention

As if the rookie hadn’t been thrown enough challenges in his previous two games, Hachimura had another test against the Orlando Magic. Just hours before the game, center Thomas Bryant was ruled out for at least three weeks due to a stress reaction in his right foot.

With Ian Mahinmi and Moritz Wagner still out, Hachimura was shifted from his natural position at power forward to top big man at center. Luckily enough, Orlando’s starting big man Nikola Vucevic missed Tuesday night’s game as well, making things a little easier on the rookie.

But from tip-off, Hachimura came out hot, as if his hand was still warm from his scoring clinic against the Clippers. He got his first 11 points in the first half of the game, including this tough finish at the rim over Khem Birch.

Hachimura would go on to finish with 15 points on the night while grabbing six rebounds and dishing four assists. All while maintaining the same intensity we saw in Los Angeles. In his first start as a rookie, Hahcimura finished with the highest +/- performance of the night for the Wizards.

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Over his last three games, Rui Hachimura is now averaging 20.3 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 2.6 assists per game. But Hachimura’s recent play and adaptability to the challenges at hand should be an encouraging sign of what’s to come in DC.