RIO DE JANEIRO - Nene Hilario was booed by some fans as his Washington Wizards slipped to an 83-81 loss late Saturday to Chicago Bulls in the first NBA matchup in Rio.
Giant centre Nene, who hails from Sao Paulo, managed five points and six rebounds in a 20-minute cameo. But taking the microphone to thank fans for coming he found himself the target of some booing.
There is little love lost between Brazilian fans and their NBA star after he skipped the recent Copa America, where Brazil flopped and went winless.
Former Brazilian star Oscar Schmidt explained: “We need a better Brazil team. But unfortunately, if NBA stars don’t show up we shall never beat anyone.”
The 13,500 crowd was disappointed as Bulls’ Derrick Rose didn’t make the encounter as he bids to return from knee surgery. Also sitting it out was Joakim Noah, nursing a groin strain.
Bulls were 44-35 to the good by half time at the HSBC Arena, slated to host Olympic gymnastics at the 2016 Rio Games.
After the third quarter they led 73-62 with Taj Gibson on his way to a match-high 18 points.
Adding to the atmosphere were the Wizards Girls cheer leading troupe, while mascots Benny of Bulls and rival counterpart G-Wiz kept the kids entertained on what was children’s day in Brazil.
Top tickets for the chance to see top US teams in the flesh went for $1000. Wizards closed the arrears to 79-77 with 5m 41 left on the clock. But Gibson was unerring with two free shots to ensure the win.
Bradley Beal top scored with 16 for Wizards.
Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, who saw Rose replacement Kirk Hinrich land eight points, lauded the Rio public.
“Coming here was an honour and a privilege. We absolutely loved it.”
Bulls moved to 3-0 preseason with the win while Wizards slid to 0-2.