Lakers News: Rui Hachimura Focused On Being Aggressive On Both Ends Against Nuggets
Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Even in their Game 2 loss to the Denver Nuggets, the Los Angeles Lakers received strong play from forward Rui Hachimura. He had 21 points on 8-of-10 shooting in 30 minutes, including solid defense on Nuggets star Nikola Jokic.

Hachimura shot 7-for-7 in the first half, the first time a player shot 7-for-7 or better in a half of a Conference Finals game since LeBron James did the same in Game 1 of the 2016 Conference Finals.

So far in two games, Hachimura’s averaging 19 points per game while shooting 76% from the field, a stark difference from averaging 7.8 points during the Golden State Warriors series. He hasn’t seen anything in particular about this matchup, explaining it’s all about being aggressive.

“Just trying to be aggressive on both ends and especially their bigs. So, I think for this series the coach has been telling me that it’s going to be a big series for me,” he said. “So, I was ready for this. And yeah, but we lost this Game 2 and it was tough one for sure, yeah.”

As much as Hachimura’s been strong on offense, he’s been equally important on the defensive end.

After the Lakers contained the Jokic matchup in Game 1 by placing Hachimura on him, it seemed like the natural step to start the Japanese forward in Game 2. Darvin Ham did consider the move, but elected to start Jarred Vanderbilt instead.

Those conversations irritated Nuggets’ head coach Michael Malone, who said everyone believed the series was done because of Hachimura’s job on Jokic. Hachimura highlighted that the Lakers must keep playing hard on defense, especially since they gave up five straight 3-pointers in the fourth quarter.

“Yeah, they made tough shots. I think we did a pretty good job on Jokic and guarding the shooters, but they just like shoot over us,” he said. “Like I just say, they’re big, they can just shoot over us. So just got to, we just got to play harder I think and that’s going to be the key.”

Jokic ended up having a quieter offensive game with just 23 points on 7-of-21 shooting, though he still ended up with a triple-double. Hachimura spent time defending him again, but LeBron also did too in the second half for the first time this series.

“I think it was good. He was trying to not give him the ball. He couldn’t even get the ball,” said Hachimura about LeBron’s defense on Jokic. “So, I think it was good. During the game, me and him talk about it, we’re going to switch the matchup and I think it worked out.”

The Lakers return home down 2-0 but are undefeated at home during the playoffs. However, Hachimura felt Game 2 was a missed opportunity after being up the majority of the game.

“Yeah, they made tough shots. Especially it was their home, so, you know, they did what they’re supposed to do,” he said. “So now we go home and we got two games, so we just got to take care of the business, we just got to win those games and we got to tie the series.”

Denver has a 2-3 record on the road including two straight losses against the Phoenix Suns in Games 3 and 4 in the last round. Both of the Lakers’ wins against the Nuggets during the regular season came at home.

Austin Reaves: Lakers can’t get down on themselves after Game 2 loss

Even if down 2-0 for the first time in these playoffs, Lakers guard Austin Reaves said the message in the locker room is to not get down on themselves and lock in winning Game 3.

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