Rui Hachimura anticipated an increased role in the Western Conference Finals against the Nuggets. Despite playing fewer minutes in the previous round against the Warriors, Hachimura knew he had a chance to contribute significantly.
In Game 1 in Denver, Hachimura played a crucial role by guarding Nikola Jokic in the fourth quarter, which was a strategic adjustment made by the Lakers. Lakers coach Darvin Ham explained that the plan was to have Anthony Davis provide support behind Hachimura and contest Jokic’s shots. This strategy worked well, allowing the Lakers to recover from a tough first half.
Hachimura’s impact extended beyond his defense on Jokic. He showcased his offensive skills, scoring 17 points on an impressive 8-for-11 shooting. His efficiency stemmed from taking advantage of the smaller defenders assigned to him. Hachimura exploited mismatches, sealing off defenders for easy dunks and driving past opponents for layups.
Although it remains uncertain whether Hachimura will start in place of Dennis Schroder or D’Angelo Russell going forward, both of whom struggled in Game 1, he will undoubtedly play a significant role. His contributions might be most effective when Jokic is off the court, providing an opportunity to exploit the Nuggets’ defense.
Hachimura is prepared for any situation and remains confident in his abilities. While his impact was limited in the previous round due to Golden State’s smaller lineups, he is now poised to regain the significant minutes he had against Memphis. His outstanding performance in Game 1 of the first round, where he scored 29 points and made several three-pointers, highlights his potential to excel.
“I’m always ready,” Hachimura stated. “The last series was different, and there wasn’t much opportunity for me. But I’ve been prepared for this moment. It’s a crucial series for me because we need size against this big Denver team. I’m looking forward to making a meaningful contribution.”
Following their loss in Game 2 of the series against the Nuggets, the Lakers now find themselves in a challenging 0-2 deficit. Despite the setback, Rui Hachimura continued to shine off the bench, delivering a strong performance. Hachimura contributed 21 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist, and 1 steal in the game. He showcased his efficiency by connecting on 8 out of 10 field goals, including a successful 1-for-2 from beyond the arc. Hachimura’s offensive prowess remained a bright spot for the Lakers amidst their struggle.
However, the Lakers will need more than just Hachimura’s individual brilliance to climb out of this deficit. One area of concern is the shot selection of LeBron James, a key leader for the team. In Game 2, James struggled with his shooting accuracy, particularly from beyond the arc. He went 0-for-6 from three-point range, which significantly impacted the Lakers’ offensive output. For the Lakers to make a comeback, James will need to take smarter shots and find a better rhythm to provide the team with the offensive firepower they desperately need.
With Hachimura’s consistent contributions and the Lakers’ ability to adjust their offensive approach, there is still hope for a turnaround in the series. The team must utilize Hachimura’s scoring prowess effectively while ensuring that James, as the focal point of their offense, makes wiser decisions to maximize their chances of victory. The Lakers will need to regroup, make the necessary adjustments, and rally together as they aim to overturn the deficit in the upcoming games.