Rui Hachimura comes up big for the Lakers with critical block

The game was at its most tense moments with Rui Hachimura delivering the game of the game for the Lakers when it mattered most.

They held a five-point lead in overtime when Knicks point guard Jalen Brunson drove the lane for a layup that Hachimura blocked with a high jump. The problem was that he was called up as a goaltender, which would reduce the Lakers’ lead to three points.

But the umpires canceled the call, stopping the Lakers at five and giving Hachimura the only block of the night for his team with 1 minute and 44 seconds into overtime.

From there, the Lakers held off the Knicks and won 129-123, with Hachimura playing his part in a big way.

“We don’t want Rui to fit in. We want him to fit,” said LeBron James. “We don’t want him to come in and just be cool. Because that’s he’s cool. He’s super cool. Very low key, low maintenance but his skills and what he can bring to our team we need him to demonstrate that to us every night. Me and AD [Anthony Davis] said, “Be aggressive from the start,” and he was to the end, ending his performance with that block. So it’s a great piece and we’re lucky to have it.”

An injury forced Lakers coach Darvin Ham to make a change to his lineup Tuesday night against the New York Knicks, and that resulted in Hachimura being included in the starting XI.

And with the return of James and Davis after both were eliminated in Monday night’s game against the Brooklyn Nets, it became a big starting group with the 6-8 Hachimura at their side.

Though this was only his fourth game with the Lakers since being acquired by the Wizards, Hachimura was more than up to the task, scoring 19 points and amassing nine rebounds.

Hachimura said he found out “just before the game” that he was starting and that “I didn’t even know it”.

Lakers' Rui Hachimura and Anthony Davis defend New York Knicks' Jalen Brunso in overtime.

Lakers’ Rui Hachimura (left) and Anthony Davis (right) defend Knicks guard Jalen Brunson (center) during Tuesday’s overtime in New York.

(Frank Franklin II / Associated Press)

“I was like, ‘Oh, okay. Alright’” he said smiling. “But I started before most of my NBA career, my freshman and sophomore year [in Washington]. I’m more used to that, you know, being a beginner. It wasn’t crazy. I was ready to play tonight. Either I come off the bench or start, I just want to play and help the team. I tried to be aggressive. Today I think I made it both ends.”

Early in the third quarter, Hachimura grabbed a rebound and gave the Lakers another offensive possession. He then sat back in the corner and took a pass from Dennis Schroder and knocked down a three.

Then, in the fourth quarter, Hachimura played a good defense against Julius Randle, who shot a three, forcing the Knicks forward to a miss. Hachimura then charged down the court and took a pass from James and scored on a dunk, giving the Lakers a six-point lead and forcing the Knicks to call a time-out to regroup.


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“I always tell my guys the only mistake you can make with me and my staff and our team is not playing hard and not competing and not being aggressive,” Ham said. “So he did just that, settled in and just played basketball. Was in the right spot, had some offensive rebounds, had the block of the game which turned out to be huge.”

Hachimura’s other big game came at 1:58 in the fourth quarter, where Hachimura passed everyone for a defensive rebound from a Jalen Brunson miss.

But his greatest moment was the blocked shot.

As the umpires watched the 1:44 OT review of the game, Hachimura stood on Madison Square Garden Court, hands on hips, waiting for the call to be made.

“I knew it was a block but it was close,” he said. “But it took them forever to verify the call. I got a little nervous but I knew it wasn’t a goalkeeper. It was a good one.” Rui Hachimura comes up big for the Lakers with critical block

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