Forward Rui Hachimura gave a career performance in the Lakers’ Game 1 win over the Grizzlies on Sunday, pouring in 21 of his 29 points in the second half.
It was the most scored by a Lakers reserve since Mychal Thompson had 29 in May 1988.
“I love Rui,” coach Darvin Ham said, via Elliott Teaford of the Orange County Register. “I mean, he’s one of the brightest young men I’ve been around and had the opportunity to coach in my life. He’s multi-faceted. He’s strong. He’s got great hands. He can get out and run and go up top. Very, very athletic. And can put the ball in the hole, as you saw. Just encouraging him to be assertive, aggressive.”
Hachimura was acquired in a midseason trade with the Wizards.
“You could see when he first arrived, he was trying to sort of tiptoe around (LeBron James) and (Anthony Davis) trying to figure out where his spots were going to come,” Ham said. “They’re going to figure it out. These guys want to see you in a position to help them as much as you want to help them.
“He listens. He watches film. We highlighted certain things in film sessions with him. He’s seeing the fruits of that labor. I told him, ‘Just go out and be free, be aggressive. The only mistake you could make on this team is to just not compete and not play together with your teammates.’ That’s it.”
- James finished with 21 points and passed Robert Horry for 24th on the Lakers’ all-time playoff scoring list in the second quarter.
Star guard Ja Morant was forced to exit in the fourth quarter with a right hand injury. His status for Game 2 is yet to be determined.
“I’m in a good bit of pain,” Morant told reporters. “My main focus was to be out there for my guys. Another incident where, you know, that’s pretty much in jeopardy.”
- Shooting guard Desmond Bane seemed to downplay the loss. “It’s one game,” he said. “It’s the first of four games for a reason. You want to win every game, but most of the time that doesn’t happen. We obviously wanted to start it off with a win, but they won, and we get another opportunity on Wednesday.”
- Coach Taylor Jenkins added that the Grizzlies will have to be sharper in Game 2. “We didn’t execute the priorities of the game plan,” he said. “Get back. Execute half-court defense and get rebounds.”
Star forward Kevin Durant was held scoreless in the first quarter, when the Suns shot just 32 percent, in the Game 1 home loss to the Clippers on Sunday. Durant finished with 27 points, but it proved to be too little, too late.
“We definitely would like to have better starts but sometimes that happens,” Durant said. “It is all about how you bounce back from it.”
Shooting guard Devin Booker added Phoenix has no choice but to keep the faith.
“We understand it is not going to be easy,” Booker said. “It gets harder from here. Thinking back to my first (playoffs), every loss is the worst thing ever and every win you are going to win the rest of them. That’s just how the playoffs go.”
- The Suns have now lost two straight at home in the playoffs. The previous came in Game 7 of the Western Conference semifinals last season, when they were blitzed by the Mavericks by 33 points.