Rui Hachimura’s season has been an inconsistent one, to say the least. Largely due to injury, both to himself and others, Rui’s role has fluctuated throughout the year.
Following a breakout postseason and a big contract this offseason, Rui came into the year with high hopes. And while he hasn’t met them yet, Thursday offered a glimpse into the player that is still there.
With LeBron out vs. the Wolves, Rui stepped up with one of his better games this season. Hachimura scored 18 points on 7-12 shooting and defended Karl-Anthony Towns admirably. More impressively, NBA’s matchup data has Karl-Anthony Towns shooting just 1-7 against Rui on the night as well.
ALl that alone would be worth praise for his performance, but RUi also had a mighty scary fall in the third quarter.
Rui Hachimura took a shot to the face and had a terrible fall on the dunk attempt— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPoints) December 22, 2023
A flagrant foul was called on Naz Reid after review. pic.twitter.com/wIV9VZez1d
Despite how bad it looked, and it looked really bad, Rui stayed in the game and continued on, matching his season-high in minutes with 34.
After the game, head coach Darvin Ham spoke about Rui’s performance on the night.
“It was gutsy, man,” Ham said. “He’s been a little up and down this year. But tonight, he played good for us, played well. He seems to be ok right now but after a fall like that, it’s tough to gauge it when your adrenaline is still flowing. But we’ll see how he is when he wakes up in the morning. It’s an ugly, scary fall…All in all, those guys fought through it and he kept competing and that’s all you can ask for.”
The Lakers have struggled to get the best out of Rui so far this season. While a performance on Thursday is welcome, it’s not one you can take a lot away from moving forward because it was a larger role than he’ll typically have when LeBron is healthy.
The challenge for Ham and the Lakers is to continue to keep finding ways for the forward to be productive. We’ve seen what the Lakers look like with a successful, productive Rui and getting that version of him and them back should be a focus moving forward.
You can follow Jacob on Twitter at @JacobRude.