On Sunday, April 17, the Los Angeles Lakers got their postseason off to the best possible start, overcoming the Memphis Grizzlies to take game one of their first-round series.
While Austin Reaves will likely be the name on the front page of the sports section on Monday morning, the recently acquired Rui Hachimura also deserves some of the credit, as he produced an outstanding performance in his supporting role.
According to Sam Quinn of CBS Sports, Rob Pelinka’s ability to acquire a player of Hachimura’s talents without parting ways with any first-round draft assets was a masterstroke, which the Lakers are now reaping the benefits.
“I criticized Rob Pelinka for almost everything (and I’m looking dumb about most of those things!), but getting Rui Hachimura without giving up a first-round pick was a steal from the moment the trade was made. Just a home run of a “second draft” style trade,” Quinn Tweeted.
Hachimura ended the contest as the Lakers’ top-scorer, compiling a statline of 29 points, 6 rebounds, and 1 assist while shooting 78.6% from the field and 83.3% from three-point range.
LeBron James Credits Austin Reaves’ Performance
In the final quarter of play, Austin Reaves once again came alive for the Lakers, scoring all five of his shot attempts while also dishing out two assists for his teammates, as he helped will his team over the finish line.
“We trust him with the ball in his hands early in the game and late in the game,” James said. “So we got something going in the fourth quarter, and after every stop or if we didn’t get a stop or whatever, I think Jaren Jackson went on like a 5-0 run by himself when we went up seven, we went back to AR and just put the ball in his hands, he was able to hit a pull-up two, able to hit a three when they kind of had a soft switch and then hit another pull-up two to put us up eight. So he closed the game for us offensively.”
Reaves has become a fan favorite since joining the Lakers as an undrafted rookie and is quickly proving himself to be among the more impactful bench players in the NBA, much to the joy of Lakerland.
Austin Reaves Heaps Praise on D’Angelo Russell
“D’Lo is a really, really good basketball player,” Reaves said. “And I think what people were talking about for him during the play-in game or after the play-in game was he didn’t play well, but you go back and look and he had eight assists. He’s so unselfish. That carries a long way for a group. When he comes off a pick-and roll, swing, swing, or you kick it to him when he has a three, but he throws the extra (pass). It goes a long way. So it’s not always about what you see on the stat sheet, and then obviously tonight, he was big. What he have, 19 points, seven assists? Like I said, he’s really good.”
Russell has been solid since rejoining the Lakers at the February 9 trade deadline, and his ability to score the rock and create for his teammates will be an invaluable addition to the teams rotation as they navigate their way through the playoffs.
The Lakers will face off against the Grizzlies in the second game of their series on Wednesday, April 19.