What once was a joke has now very much become a reality. When Desmond Bane challenged Rui Hachimura to basically “do it again” after his performance in Game 1 of the playoffs against Memphis, the #PlayoffRui hashtag was a fun joke that spawned largely from that.
Technically, Rui hasn’t matched that point total since, but he’s been absolutely impressive for the vast majority of the postseason. While the Golden State Warriors proved to be a poor matchup for Rui, the other two series against the Grizzlies and Nuggets have seen him flourish.
Hachimura had his third game in double figures against Denver on Saturday, scoring 13 points on 5-12 shooting in 34 minutes despite the Lakers falling in Game 3. It’s only the fourth time this postseason he’s shot under 50% from the field but also was the most minutes he’s played in a game so far.
After the contest, he spoke about whether he feels his ceiling has raised based on this postseason run.
“For me and the people that know me for a long time — from the Wizards or other players, the coaches — for me, it’s not new for me,” Hachimura said. “I’ve had this for a while. It’s just a different opportunity. The Lakers is like one of the biggest teams in the league and playing with LeBron, AD, highest level. It’s just a different opportunity and it’s nothing for me.”
Rui has stepped up in a remarkable way this postseason, especially considering what he had done in the regular season. After shooting 29% on 71 3-point attempts in the regular season, Rui is up to 52.8% from the 3-point line in 36 attempts in the playoffs. He’s made two fewer 3-pointers in 15 postseason games (19) than he did in 33 regular season games (21) for the Lakers.
It’s a terrific example of knowing a role, being comfortable in it and excelling, something Rui spoke about earlier in the playoffs. Having LeBron James, Anthony Davis and assistant coach Phil Handy in his ear non-stop also is a huge boost.
Rui has taken the guidance and opportunities and run with it and, as a result, has earned himself a big payday this summer. The Lakers will have to weigh his impact in the 15 games (and counting) of the postseason versus the 31 games of the regular season, but it’s hard not to massively credit him for showing up time and time again in the biggest games of the season for the Lakers.
In a series full of frustrations and disappointments, Rui has been one of the bright spots as he continues to excel in the playoffs.
You can follow Jacob on Twitter at @JacobRude.