When it mattered the most, both Austin Reaves and Rui Hachimura emerged as the unsung heroes of the Los Angeles Lakers’ 128-112 first-round opener victory over the Memphis Grizzlies.
In his first official playoff game, the undrafted sophomore scored 14 of his 23 total points for the Lakers in the fourth frame, wherein he was the one responsible for the nine-straight points that L.A. unleashed on its 13-0 late rally in the final 2:03 of regulation to completely leave Memphis away.
“I knew from the first practice what we had when we grabbed him, that he wasn’t going to be a two-way player for long,” LeBron James said of Reaves, per Dan Woike of the Los Angeles Times. “Then a couple weeks went by, I knew he was going to get a guaranteed contract at some point. I just know. I’ve been around the game long enough to know great basketball IQ players and I know the type of players that fit with my game and I knew Austin would be that right away.”
Reaves was highly efficient on the weekend contest, finishing with an 8-of-13 shooting throughout the field. He also dished out four impactful assists with no turnover.
Meanwhile, the Japanese sensation in Hachimura caught fire off the bench for the Lakers, chipping 29 points – with 21 coming from the second half. He hurled a barrage of threes, going 5-of-6 in long distance, and went on to smash a monster jam over Defensive Player of the Year finalist Jaren Jackson Jr. early in the fourth period.
Hachimura’s 29 points in 11-for-14 shooting tied the record set by Mychal Thompson for the most points scored by a reserve player in Lakers playoff history. The retired cager chipped in the same amount of points in a Game 2 win against the San Antonio Spurs back on May 1, 1988.
“Just, since I got here this team, they really believe in me,” Hachimura said. “My shots and my defensive side, everything in what I do. Before the game, the coaches, everybody … they gave me all the green light to shoot all those shots because they told me I’m a good shooter.”
As they delivered a statement victory and an early positive vibe on their seven-game series against the Grizzlies, Anthony Davis reiterated the significance of role players in winning postseason matches.
“I think the playoffs is all about, obviously, guys are keying in on the stars, me and Bron, trying to figure out how they can take us out the game,” Davis said, who tallied 22 points and 13 boards amid arm injury scare. “But you win playoff games with your role players. And that’s exactly what happened tonight.”
The Lakers will look to capitalize on their early series momentum against the Grizzlies as Game 2 is scheduled on Wednesday.