Rui Hachimura, Yuta Watanabe Face Off in NBA for 2nd Time This Season

Phoenix Suns forward Yuta Watanabe, left, and Los Angeles Lakers forward Rui Hachimura compete during an NBA game in Phoenix on Friday.

PHOENIX — Japanese basketball aces Yuta Watanabe and Rui Hachimura faced off in an NBA game for the second time this season during a match between the Phoenix Suns and the Los Angeles Lakers in Phoenix on Friday.

Watanabe (Suns) and Hachimura (Lakers) shared the court after both coming off the bench. Hachimura played for 20 minutes, contributing 7 points, three rebounds, one assist and four steals, while Watanabe played for 14 minutes, scoring 3 points and grabbing one rebound.

The Lakers eventually edged their opponents 122-119 after a fourth-quarter comeback. The game was part of a newly established tournament for the season.

“Hachimura’s 3-pointers and a dunk off a steal had a significant impact on the game,” Watanabe said in a post-match interview, referencing Hachimura’s 5 points in the fourth quarter.

Hachimura had earlier closed the gap with a 3-pointer, helping spur the Lakers’ rally. Later, with seven minutes remaining, Hachimura stole the ball in his own half, initiated a fast break with a dribble, maneuvered past a defender and scored with a two-handed dunk.

After the game, the two Japanese players embraced and praised each other’s efforts. Watanabe commented: “Being able to compete and improve on the same court as Rui Hachimura is a positive experience. To be honest, my performance hasn’t been up to par. I need to work on my shooting accuracy and make adjustments to up my game.”