Rui Hachimura excels in Lakers’ win over Grizzlies


Rui Hachimura, LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers sent an emphatic message as the playoffs of a Western Conference began for anyone.

Hachimura had the best points production of his playoff career with 29, including 21 in the second half, and James added 21 points and 11 rebounds in the Lakers’ 128-112 win over the Memphis Grizzlies on Sunday in the first game of their postseason series.

Memphis had the best home record in the NBA, at 35-6, but lost home-field advantage against the Lakers. Game 2 is Wednesday at FedExForum, and the Grizzlies were concerned with star Ja Morant, who suffered a recurrence of a right hand injury.

“We didn’t know how to execute the priority elements of our game plan,” Memphis coach Taylor Jenkins said. “You have to get it back. You have to defend at midfield and recover rebounds”.

Austin Reaves added 23 points, including nine straight in the final minutes as the Lakers pulled away. Anthony Davis had 22 points and 12 rebounds and D’Angelo Russell, who scored just two points in a playoff win over the Minnesota Timberwolves, finished with 19.

Hachimura missed just one of his nine shots in the second half, and hit all five of his 3-point attempts.

“In the second half, we got into a good rhythm,” said the Japanese. “We distributed the ball and the shots just went in.”

Jaren Jackson Jr. led Memphis with 31 points while Desmond Bane had 22. Morant scored 18 points before leaving the game in the fourth quarter with a sprained right hand.

“I’m in quite a bit of pain,” Morant said. “My highest priority is to be available for my team. Another incident where I was left quite at risk.”

It was the Japanese Hachimura who gave oxygen to the Lakers in the third period, connecting all four of his attempts from long distance. His only previous playoff experience was in 2021 with Washington, which lost a first-round series with Philadelphia. The Lakers acquired him from the Wizards in a midseason trade.

“He’s versatile,” Lakers coach Darvin Ham said of Hachiumura. “He is a strong guy. He has excellent hands. He can be in all. He is very athletic and has good aim as we have seen today. We’re excited that he’s aggressive.”


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