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Home SPORTS Wizards, Warriors put on a show in Japan's first preseason game

Wizards, Warriors put on a show in Japan’s first preseason game

Wizards, Warriors put on a show in Japan’s first game originally appeared on NBC SportsWashington

The Washington Wizards lost to the Golden State Warriors 96-87 in their first preseason game in Japan. Here are five takeaways from what happened…

First presentation

The Washington Wizards have built a sizeable following in the country of Japan thanks in large part to Rui Hachimura. Japanese fans set their alarms at odd hours to watch Hachimura and his teammates play in US time zones. On Friday morning, it was America’s turn to change their sleep times, as the Wizards and Warriors gave notice at 6 am ET in the first of two exhibition games in Saitama, Japan.

Those who woke up early were treated to a fun game with no shortage of highlights. Wizards fans eager to see how the revamped roster will fare should be heartened by what they saw, particularly from Bradley Beal and Kristaps Porzingis. And Hachimura played his part with an impressive performance with the spotlight on his every move and a packed stadium cheering him on.

The overall shooting numbers, naturally, weren’t great, as it was the first preseason warmup and featured players who are likely to be jet-lagged. The Wizards shot 31-for-83 (37.3%) from the field and 5-for-35 (14.3%) from 3-point range. The Warriors, known for their outside shooting, were just 7-for-23 (30.4%) from deep. Both teams made up for it with a crowd-pleasing collection of dunks.

The Wizards and Warriors will play again at 1 am ET on Sunday morning before heading home.

Hachimura got the start

The Wizards and Warriors have star players, in Golden State’s case some all-time greats, but Hachimura is the face of basketball in Japan and that was evident Friday morning, even to those who watched the game from thousands of kilometers away. Hachimura presented Stephen Curry with a bottle of his signature wine at a pregame ceremony, then drew gasps from the crowd with almost everything he did.

Hachimura got going in the first quarter with a hard layup over Draymond Green. That set an aggressive tone that he maintained throughout the game and led to him living on the free throw line. Hachimura would have scored 13-plus points if it wasn’t for him going 3-for-7 from the charity line. Hachimura also had nine rebounds and a steal.

Hachimura started at small forward, probably in large part because of the importance of the game, but two of the Wizards’ candidates to start there on opening night were also out. Deni Avdija missed the match as expected due to his groin injury, while Will Barton had a late scratch due to lower back strain.

Beal and Porzingis

This was the first game Beal and Porzingis played together, as Porzingis was acquired days after Beal’s 2021–22 season was cut short due to left wrist surgery. This represented the benchmark test of how the Wizards’ two best players will co-exist and, well, early results were good. Beal and Porzingis set out to create for each other and were very successful in doing so. While it was the first game of the preseason, it’s worth noting that the defending champion Warriors held first place in the league. 1 defense last year.

Porzingis gave Beal a bucket in the first quarter on a dribble where Beal came around him at the 3-point line and found an open lane to the rim. In the second quarter, Beal came off a screen on a Monte Morris pass and quickly sent Porzingis in for an alley-oop with a smooth, accurate lob. Moments later, Porzingis caught a pindown pass and quickly shot Beal for a corner three.

Beal had nine points and Porzingis finished with seven. There’s a lot of offensive potential between the two, and Friday morning was off to a positive start. At best, it could be a situation of picking up their poison for the defense and making the most of it with decisive passes and sharp play execution.

Kuzma’s offensive role

Kyle Kuzma, the Wizards’ apparent third scoring option, is a key part of their offensive chemistry build and it will be worth seeing how he fits in alongside Beal and Porzingis. It may take him some time to find a flow, given that last year was much better once the offense got through him following changes to his roster. Kuzma is at his best when he’s aggressive on the dribble and that was the case in this one. Although he didn’t shoot very well (3-9 FG, 1-5 3PT), he did make a number of promising plays.

Kuzma was attacking in open spaces and in the first quarter he fired a good pass to Morris on a spin in the lane, Morris missed his attempt from the corner. Kuzma then turned on briefly in the second quarter, starting with a fake bomb from the 3-point line that resulted in a vicious dunk. He followed that up with a deep 3-pointer with the entire defense, a shot that showed the confidence he built late last year.

PG rotation

The Wizards should be happy with other signs they saw Friday morning. Delon Wright forced turnovers, for which he was hired in free agency. Wright had three blocks, plus a nice leg deflection from Andrew Wiggins, who bounced the ball out of bounds and into Wizards possession. Wright also found Daniel Gafford for an alley-oop slam in the second half in what may have been a foretaste of his second-drive connection.

Rookie first-round pick Johnny Davis played a bit of point guard, as the Wizards have an opening behind Wright. They also didn’t bring their 10 exhibition players on the trip, which took away some of their base depth on the lower roster. While Davis did little in the scoring chart in 22 minutes, he looked quicker than he did in Summer League. That’s purely anecdotal, but it would also make sense given that he was dealing with lower back strain in Las Vegas, which affected his mobility.

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