Coming into the NBA playoffs, it was obvious Rui Hachimura could be an X-Factor for the Lakers. He needed exactly one game for that.
In only his sixth playoff game of his career (and his first as a Laker), Hachimura put on a career performance that helped propel the team to a 16-point Game 1 victory. 30 minutes off the bench, Hachimura set a new playoff career high with 29 points (on 11-of-14 shots) and six rebounds.
After going into the half-time break with eight points, Hachimura switched to a different mode in the second half. In the third quarter, he heated up from behind the arc to keep the Lakers in position to compete and eventually steal home court in Game 1.
Hachimiura’s 29 points in a reserve role ties a Lakers record seeded by Mychal Thompson during the franchise’s run to the 1988 NBA title. His Game 1 performance could be a sign that an LA team aspiring to make a deep run is yet to come.
Acquisition of Rui Hachimura in the third quarter
How impressive was Hachimura in the third frame? A flawless shot table tells the story.
Hachimura made Memphis pay for his defensive turns, scoring 12 points on a 4-of-4 shooting from beyond the arc as LA outplayed their opponent 37-25 in the third quarter.
RUI HACHIMURA IS RED HOT.
He has 20 PTS on 7/9 FG ????
Before the first game on Sunday, the most 3s Hachimura had ever made in a game was four. In Game 1 of the series, Hachimura reached that total in five minutes and 33 seconds of play.
He wasn’t finished in the third either…
Rui Hachimura enters the clutch
The Lakers challenged Hachimura again in the final frame and he rose to the challenge.
Hachimura added nine more points in the final frame to bring his total to a game-high 29 points. And it wasn’t just the fact that he scored, but the way he did it.
In the fourth quarter, Hachimura hit an emphatic dunk home to bring the Lakers home by three points, and a few possessions later he dished out an incredible spin assist to Austin Reaves that sent the Lakers up four points with a three-pointer to turn to beat the shot clock.
AUSTIN REAVES FOR 3
Lakers on a 7-0 run with 6 minutes left ????️
????: Live on ABC | game 1 pic.twitter.com/yqf0MbgmkE
– NBA (@NBA) April 16, 2023
Reaves retaliated with a back-the-back assist for Hachimura, who sunk his fifth treble of the game.
REAVES TO RUI. SHOW TIME.
Lakers lead 3:00 to go ‼️
????: Live on ABC | game 1 pic.twitter.com/dClToHKTlR
– NBA (@NBA) April 16, 2023
Hachimura’s fourth-quarter performance also included an impressive turnaround jumper and a breakaway slam to close the book in Game 1 and bring his total to 29 game points.
In a series that has stars like Anthony Davis, LeBron James, Jaren Jackson Jr. and Ja Morant, the series is won based on which players can advance and perform in their respective roles.
Hachimura’s Game 1 performance was a clear statement and an encouraging sign for the Lakers in their goal to pull off an upset in the first round.