Austin Reaves Scores 23 in Lakers Game One Win
AUSTIN REAVES SCORES 23 IN LAKERS GAME ONE WIN – A few weeks ago, I wrote an article that provided some reasons why we should NOT sleep on the Los Angeles Lakers before the playoffs began.
Of course, one of the reasons the Laker fan base remains faithful is that it is difficult to count a team out that has LeBron James on its roster. You know, NBA’s all-time leading scorer, who is a shoo-in for the Hall-of-Fame. The guy who helped lead his teams to 10 straight NBA Finals series. The player who has won a championship with three different franchises. The dude who became the first player in league history to lead an NBA Finals series in points (35.3), rebounds (13.3), and assists (8.8). The list goes on, but I am sure you get the point.
LeBron’s Number Two
And every superstar needs a sidekick as the saying goes, right?
Well, Anthony Davis fits that role rather nicely (when he’s healthy) and he is one of the reasons why the Lakers stayed in playoff contention when James was sidelined for 13 games. Although the Lakers entered the playoffs as the No. 7 seed, what we saw in Game 1 against the Grizzlies was special.
First things first. James (21 points, 11 rebounds, and five assists) and Davis (22 points, 12 rebounds, seven blocks, and three assists) certainly had an impact on the contest. But it was a pair of unsung heroes that made the difference in this game.
Rui Haciumura – whom the Lakers acquired in a midseason trade – provided some much-needed scoring punch off the bench.
He scored a playoff career-best 29 points, including in the second half. Hachimura converted 11 of his 14 shot attempts from the floor and he had five of the Lakers’ 16 three-point makes, missing on just one of his six attempts from beyond the arc.
“He’s multifaceted,” Lakers coach Darvin Ham told ESPN. “He’s strong. He has great hands. He can get out and run, go up top. Very, very athletic and can really put the ball in the hole as you saw today. Just encouraging him to be assertive, aggressive.”
The Austin Reaves Ascension
Another Laker player that rose to the occasion is second-year shooting guard Austin Reeves. During his rookie campaign last season, Reeves averaged 7.3 points per contest on 45.9 percent shooting from the field and 31.7 percent from the 3-point line.
This season, he nearly doubled his scoring output as he averaged 13 points per outing while shooting 52.9 percent from the field and an above-average 39.8 percent from deep. To be objective, the playoffs are a completely different stage compared to the regular season, especially if a player does not have any previous experience. However, the ever-confident Reeves didn’t flinch in this one.
In his playoff debut, Reeves scored 23 points on 8-for-13 shooting from the floor, and he connected on three of his five attempts from distance. This includes a personal 9-0 run in the waning moments of the game when the outcome was very much still in doubt.
Thanks to the contributions of these two role players the Lakers emerged victorious with a 128-112 win in a game that was a lot closer than the final score would indicate. It is also worth noting that Memphis posted its second straight 50-win season, finished with the second-best record in the Western Conference, and this squad also had the league’s best home record at 35-6. So, beating them on their home court should not be considered a small feat by any means.
To be objective, though, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the fact that Grizzlies point guard Ja Morant left the game in the fourth quarter with a hand injury.
On top of that, his status is questionable for Game 2 on Wednesday night.
Ja Morant Suffers Hand Injury, Game 2 Status Questionable https://t.co/bvFIW85H2f pic.twitter.com/tbEAmq3Lu8
— Hoops Rumors (@HoopsRumors) April 16, 2023
After missing the second half of last year’s conference semifinal series against the Golden State Warriors, this is an unfortunate development for the Grizzlies, to say the least.
Can the Lakers Pull the Upset?
Shifting the focus back to the Lakers, the team still needs its two stars to perform at a high level. That fact is not up for debate. But what the series opener has proven is that any player on this roster can step up when his number is called, which makes Los Angeles as dangerous as any team in the conference.
The beauty of the postseason play is that anything can happen once you get there. And this is what the Lakers proved in Game 1 of this series.