Of all the ways the Lakers could have drawn up a victory in Game 1 of Sunday’s contest against the Grizzlies to open the playoffs, precisely zero of them would have followed the formula that played out. Despite LeBron James and Anthony Davis both being healthy, available and on the court, it was Austin Reaves and Rui Hachimura that led the Lakers to a win.
Reaves scored 14 points in the fourth quarter, Hachimura had nine of his 29 points in the final frame and 21 in the second half and the pair helped the Lakers win going away. For a number of reasons, it was as surreal a playoff win as the Lakers have had in the LeBron-AD era as the two were along for the ride in the quarter.
Deleted the original stat because I had it wrong.— Jacob Rude (@JacobRude) April 16, 2023
Today is the 9th time in LeBron's career he's had 1 FG attempt or fewer in the fourth and his team has won.
But today is the most minutes (10) he's played in a 4th quarter in those instances.
"It's Austin Reaves time" - LeBron https://t.co/CcypEl1719
The absurdity and impressiveness of the performance led to a whole host of incredible stats across the board for Reaves and Hachimura. Here’s a look at five of the craziest ones.
We’ll start small, because these are quickly going to get more absurd. Hachimura has never been known much for his 3-point shooting. He’s a career 34.7% shooter from range and only shot 29.6% from there in the regular season for the Lakers.
By connecting on five of his six attempts on Sunday, Rui set a new career high.
Before today, Rui Hachimura had hit as many as four 3-pointers once in his NBA career across 215 regular season and playoff games.— Tim Bontemps (@TimBontemps) April 16, 2023
He is 5-for-6 from 3 today.
The one game of Hachimura’s career in which he hit four 3-pointers came in Washington in March of 2021. He only had 15 games with three 3-pointers and none of those even came in Los Angeles.
Joining a franchise icon
In scoring 29 points off the bench, Hachimura set a number of franchise marks. For one, it’s the first time a Laker has scored at least 25 points off the bench in a playoff game since...Magic Johnson nearly three decades ago.
Rui Hachimura is the first Laker with 25+ PTS off the bench in a Playoff game since:— NBA History (@NBAHistory) April 16, 2023
Magic Johnson (1996) pic.twitter.com/hsZ10k1vn8
That Magic game came during his brief attempt at a comeback and was the only win the Lakers had in their first-round series against the Houston Rockets. Magic scored 26 points on 7-11 shooting overall and only attempted one 3-pointer, which he made, with most of his work coming at the free throw line where he went 11-13.
Rui’s scoring came a bit differently as he had nearly as many 3-pointers as Magic had field goals but both performances helped their team to a win.
You know, just two franchise icons.
To add full context to Rui’s performance, it was one of the greatest in franchise history for the Lakers. He tied Mychal Thompson for the most points by a player off the bench in a playoff game in franchise history with his 29 points.
Hachimura History pic.twitter.com/V1TMIEgDhP— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) April 16, 2023
Via @SpectrumSN, on Rui’s huge Lakers playoff debut: pic.twitter.com/ZSWLW7dZUE— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) April 16, 2023
Again, that’s a list littered with names of franchise icons and all are NBA champions. For a franchise wit has much postseason history as the Lakers, topping any list means something and also further shows how impressive — and improbable — the performance was.
Hillbilly Kobe joins actual Kobe
After Rui helped the Lakers get to the final minutes with a lead, it was Reaves who slammed the door shut on the Grizzlies. Over a series of late-game possessions, Reaves was given the ball and made things happen, burying a 3-pointer and a pull-up jumper before letting the world know an important trait he has.
'I'M HIM"— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) April 16, 2023
Austin Reaves letting the world know pic.twitter.com/9y15iGbAh0
Even Damian Lillard took notice of Reaves, perhaps leading to him changing his mind about being a future Laker.
My bad … Reaves like that— Damian Lillard (@Dame_Lillard) April 16, 2023
Reaves was a perfect 5-5 from the field in the fourth with two 3-pointers and two free throws for his 14 points. It put him up there with two other franchise icons for dominant fourth-quarter performances.
Austin Reaves is the 3rd Laker in the last 25 seasons to finish 5-5 FG or better in the 4th quarter of a playoff game.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) April 16, 2023
He joins Kobe Bryant against the Spurs in 2002 and Shaquille O'Neal against the Pacers in 2000. pic.twitter.com/0dk19HQE7F
Now, Hillbilly Kobe and the black Mamba himself can earnestly be mentioned in the same sentence for their accomplishments.
New Showtime Lakers?
The big nights from Reaves and Rui combined with LeBron and AD scoring 21 and 22 points, respectively, means the Lakers had four players eclipse 20 points. And unsurprisingly, that’s something that hasn’t been accomplished often!
Tonight was the first time since 1988 that the Los Angeles Lakers had four separate players score at least 20 points in a postseason game.— (@FlyByKnite) April 16, 2023
The last time involved Magic Johnson, Byron Scott, James Worthy and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
What this Lakers team has that very few other teams have had since then is a host of players that can step up on any given night. After being the play-in game hero, Dennis Schröder took a backseat on Sunday. And after being ineffective in the play-in game, D’Angelo Russell finished a point shy of scoring 20 points himself.
Sunday’s performance was a memorable win for the Lakers and hopefully just the beginning of a special playoff run.
You can follow Jacob on Twitter at @JacobRude.