MEMPHIS, TN—The Los Angeles Lakers opened up the 2023 Playoffs with a 128-112 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies in Game 1 on Sunday, April 16 at FedExForum. This impressive victory was spearheaded by Rui Hachimura and Austin Reaves and were instrumental in the second half.
The Lakers have a 1-0 series lead, and the Purple and Gold fans are smelling upset. Memphis had the best home winning record in the NBA this season at 35-6. However, the Lakers now possess homecourt advantage while playing their best ball of the season.
Hachimura scored a playoff career-best 29 points, including 21 in the second half. Reaves added 23 points, including nine points in the closing minutes as the Lakers pulled away.
Pundits and experts stated the duo of LeBron James and Anthony Davis needed to score at least 75 points to have an opportunity to knock off the No. 2 seed Grizzlies. James had 21 points while AD had 22 points, but it was a team victory that defied logic.
Hachimura was deadly from beyond the arc, turning the Lakers biggest liability into a sudden asset moving forward. Hachimura missed only one of his nine shots in the second half, including making all five of his 3-point attempts.
“The second half, we were in a good rhythm,” Hachimura said. “We were sharing the ball and all the shots just came to me.”
The Grizzlies have major concerns about star Ja Morant, who aggravated a right hand injury.
Jaren Jackson Jr. led Memphis with 31 points, while Desmond Bane scored 22. Morant had 18 points before leaving in the fourth quarter with the hand injury. The Grizzlies’ leading scorer’s availability for Game 2 is uncertain.
“I’m in a good bit of pain,” Morant said. “My main focus was to be out there for my guys. Another incident where, you know, that’s pretty much in jeopardy.”
It was Hachimura who provided Los Angeles some breathing room in the third quarter, connecting on all four of his 3-point attempts. The Lakers acquired him from the Wizards in a midseason trade.
All of the Lakers acquired at the trade deadline have turned the team into a legitimate threat in the Western Conference. Including Hachimura, Jarred Vanderbilt, Malik Beasley and D’Angelo Russell, who added 19 points in the win.
After the Grizzlies used a second-quarter burst taking a 65-59 lead into halftime, the teams swapped leads through much of the second half, and Memphis still held a 101-100 advantage with 8:36 left.
Hachimura made a 13-foot jumper, and Reaves nailed a 3-pointer as the shot clock was expiring. Then, as Memphis got close again with about three minutes left, Reaves went on his individual scoring spree, and the Lakers closed out the game with the final 15 points.
Game 2 is Wednesday at 4:30 pm, the game will air on TNT.