Lakers News: Rui Hachimura Speaks On Play-In Tournament Win & Ability To Rest Before Playoffs
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Lakers received steady production from Rui Hachimura in the Play-In Tournament victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday. Hachimura had 12 points in 27 minutes and was a plus-20, the second-highest on the team. He mixed up some key defensive plays with timely shot-making, closing out the game in overtime.

Even though the Timberwolves were without key pieces, the win didn’t come easy for the Lakers. Hachimura acknowledged that the Lakers didn’t pay attention to the Timberwolves’ absences, instead focusing on what they can control on the court.

“Before the game, we talked about how they had a couple of guys that were out but we talked about how we don’t care who they play,” he said. “We just got to play our game and we just got to defend. Those were the keys of the game and I think in the first half, we didn’t really get in a rhythm offensively but I think on the defensive side we were pretty good throughout the whole game and we came back in the second half and won the game.”

A Dennis Schroder 3-pointer near the end of regulation seemed to seal the win for the Lakers. But, like much of the game, what happened next was unpredictable — Anthony Davis fouled Timberwolves guard Mike Conley on a 3-pointer. Conley sank the free throws to send the game to overtime.

Hachimura said the response in overtime was predicated on the work they did before and throughout the game.

“We actually played them a couple of weeks ago and we watched a lot of film this past couple of days on how we were gonna guard them and stuff,” he said. “So I think that helped, and even during the game when we communicated with each other. We were pretty good on Edwards and Towns so I think that helped.”

After a quiet March, Hachimura’s offensive production improved to close the season. He had a strong 20-point, 12-rebound game against the Houston Rockets in early April — a performance so impressive that LeBron James awarded Hachimura the game ball. He’s scored double digits in five of the last six games, tying his best stretch with the Lakers.

“Playing with LeBron and AD, I can get a lot of easy looks so just got to be ready and stay ready to knock down those shots,” he said.

With the win against Minnesota, the Lakers now have four days of rest between the start of the first round. Anthony Davis said a part of their focus in the game was ensuring they’d secure rest. The Lakers played seven games in 12 days to close the regular season.

While resting their bodies will be huge for the Lakers, Hachimura emphasized the mental aspect of preparing.

“We need it for sure. But we just got to, we might rest for one day but then we just got to get back to it,” he said. “I think we’re gonna start watching film and practice and stuff so we just got to get locked in. Memphis is a young team and they’re very physical so we just got to match their energy.”

LeBron called Play-In tournament win over Timberwolves a playoff atmosphere

Tuesday night was the first Lakers playoff game with full-capacity fans since April 26, 2013. James and Davis are the remaining players from the 2020 championship run, but they never experienced a moment like Tuesday with the Lakers.

LeBron acknowledged the atmosphere of the arena after the game.

“It was definitely a playoff game. Playoff atmosphere. Playoff intensity. Refs allowed us to play. It felt like the playoffs,” James said. “So it’s good to get into the playoff feel of the game.”

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