Thunder tries to break the skid, visit Rui Hachimura, Wizards


August 1, 2021; Saitama, Japan; Japanese player Rui Hachimura (8) takes a rebound as Japan faces Argentina in the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics at Saitama Super Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kareem Elgazzar-USA TODAY Sports

More than six months after his last NBA game and more than five months after playing for Japan at the Tokyo Olympics, Rui Hachimura is back for the Washington Wizards.

After making his season debut in Sunday’s victory in Orlando, Hachimura’s comeback continues on Tuesday when the Wizards host the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 1 of an eight-game homestand.

“I waited for this moment. I had to take some time off, but I’m so happy to come back on the pitch and play with these guys, ”said Hachimura. “I missed the feeling.”

Hachimura declined to give much details on the reasons for his absence, saying he faces a personal situation and referring to the need for a break from a demanding schedule. That list included the Wizards’ playoff race, which lasted until early June, and the Olympics, where Hachimura was one of the faces of the Japanese contingent.

But Washington is happy to find him.

After a 10-3 start, the Wizards briefly fell below 0.500 before breaking even with Sunday’s victory.

“I think he gives you that physique that we sometimes miss,” Washington coach Wes Unseld Jr. said. “His size, his ability to attack on the rebound – he missed a few open shots that I think. ‘he will do.

“I can’t wait to see how it plays out. “

And Hachimura’s return coincides with a stretch where the Wizards need to make an effort if they are to return to their early-season success.

Washington expects to get another boost with the return of Montrezl Harrell, who cleared the NBA’s COVID-19 protocol and numbers to come back against the Thunder after missing seven games.

Oklahoma City enters Tuesday’s game after losing four straight games and six of their last seven.

The Thunder will play six of their next seven away from home.

Tuesday’s game is the second and final meeting of the season between the teams.

The Wizards won 101-99 on Nov. 26 in Oklahoma City as Shai Gilgeous-Alexander missed a desperate 3 points on the buzzer.

It’s not just hopeless situations where Gilgeous-Alexander is fighting over the 3-point line, however.

Gilgeous-Alexander, the Thunder’s top scorer, shoots a career-high 27.7% beyond the arc and Oklahoma City is last in the NBA with a 3-point shot at 30.8%.

In the Thunder’s last seven games, Gilgeous-Alexander is 5 of 24 beyond the arc.

Oklahoma City coach Mark Daigneault said Gilgeous-Alexander doesn’t need to be among the league’s best 3-pointers, but he needs the shooting threat to keep the honest defenses.

“The biggest key for him with his ability to hit paint is for teams to respect him,” said Daigneault. “If the defense respects and honors that shot, it’s good for our offense, and it creates space for him and whoever has the ball.”

–Field level media

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