MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Rui Hachimura had a career-best playoff scoring performance with 29 points, including 21 in the second half, and LeBron James added 21 points and 11 rebounds as the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Memphis Grizzlies 128-112 on Sunday in the opening game of their Western Conference playoff series.
Austin Reaves added 23 points, including nine straight in the closing minutes as the Lakers pulled away. Anthony Davis had 22 points and 12 rebounds, and D’Angelo Russell, who scored only two points in the Lakers’ play-in win over the Minnesota Timberwolves, finished with 19 points.
Jaren Jackson Jr. led Memphis with 31 points, while Desmond Bane scored 22. Ja Morant had 18 points before leaving in the fourth quarter with an injured right hand.
Los Angeles wrested home-court advantage from the Grizzlies, who had the NBA’s best home record at 35-6. Game 2 is Wednesday at FedExForum.
It was Hachimura from Japan who provided Los Angeles some breathing room in the third quarter, connecting on all four of his 3-point attempts. Hachimura’s only previous playoff experience was in 2021 with Washington, which lost a first-round series to Philadelphia. The Lakers acquired him from the Wizards in a midseason trade.
The Lakers earned the seventh seed in the West by beating Minnesota in the play-in tournament. Los Angeles missed the playoffs in 2022 and was eliminated in the first round by the Phoenix Suns a year earlier.
Memphis finished with 51 wins, its second straight 50-victory season, to earn the No. 2 seed.
The Lakers led by as much as 10 in the first half as Memphis faced some early ballhandling woes. Jarred Vanderbilt’s defense kept Morant out of the paint for a while. But Memphis outscored the Lakers 38-27 in the second quarter to carry a 65-59 lead into the break.
Lakers: This is the first time Los Angeles has faced Memphis in the postseason. … Davis left the court late in the second quarter with an injury to his right arm. He returned to start the second half. … The first Los Angeles turnover came with 8:41 left in the second quarter. Its second came a minute later. … James passed Robert Horry for 24th on the Los Angeles all-time playoff scoring list in the second quarter.
Grizzlies: C Steven Adams (right knee PCL sprain) and C/F Brandon Clarke (left Achilles tendon tear) were out and are expected to miss the playoffs. … Morant played with his right hand wrapped from what coach Taylor Jenkins described as a contusion in his pregame availability. Morant hurt the hand again in the fourth quarter when he landed awkwardly on the hand, called for a charge against Davis.
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Clay Bailey, The Associated Press