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Rui Hachimura Helps Lakers Win Play-In Game And Earn a Trip to NBA Playoffs

Fourth-year pro Rui Hachimura nailed a 3-pointer to put the Lakers ahead early in overtime against the Timberwolves. They led the rest of the way.

Rui Hachimura drained a go-ahead 3-pointer in overtime, which proved to be a good omen for the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday, April 11.

The Lakers held on for a 108-102 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves in the NBA's Western Conference seventh place versus eighth place play-in game at Arena.

Hachimura's long-range bucket produced the first points of overtime at the 4:35 mark, putting his team ahead 101-98. LeBron James, the NBA's all-time leading scorer, registered an assist on the play.

James finished with a game-high 30 points and teammate Anthony Davis added 24 points and 15 rebounds. Veteran point guard Dennis Schroder had 21 points, while Hachimura, who played 26-plus minutes off the bench, chipped in with 12 points, two rebounds and an assist.

With the win, West No 7 seed Los Angeles (43-39 in the regular season) advanced to the NBA playoffs. The Lakers will play No 2 seed Memphis Grizzlies (51-31) in a best-of-seven, first-round series, starting on Sunday, April 16.

In 2020, the NBA established a play-in format for teams seeded seventh through 10th in both conferences to have a shot at advancing to the playoffs in the COVID-19 bubble in Florida.

A year later, the NBA's Board of Governors OK'd a play-in tournament as a new fixture of the schedule. Teams needed to secure a top-six spot in both conferences to avoid the possibility of appearing in the play-in tournament for the East or West ― a final shot for teams seeded 7-10. (More details on the NBA Play-In Tournament are posted on the league website.)

Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards shoots as Rui Hachimura defends in the second half. (Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY SPORTS)

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Lakers Enter Playoffs on a Hot Streak

The Lakers, who coped with the absence of all-time great James for a month due to a tendon injury in his right foot before his return in late March, have triumphed in 10 of 12 games entering the upcoming playoffs.

"Once you get to the end of things, to have everyone healthy, to be playing in the type of rhythm we're playing in, to defend at the level that we're defending at, going into the most important time of the year, you can't ask for a better situation," Lakers coach Darvin Ham told reporters after the game.

Despite the loss to the Lakers, the Timberwolves are still in the play-in tourney. Minnesota will meet the winner of the Nos 9/10 clash on Wednesday, April 12 between the New Orleans Pelicans, the higher seed, and the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Timberwolves' next game is on Friday.

A Quick Look at Rui Hachimura's Season

Hachimura played his first two preseason games at Saitama Super Arena in late September and early October, enjoying the spotlight during the NBA Japan Games against the reigning champion Golden State Warriors. The Washington Wizards traded him to the Lakers in late January.

In 30 games (zero starts) for the Wizards before the trade, Hachimura averaged 13.0 points, 4.3 rebounds and 24.3 minutes per game.

The 25-year-old Toyama native appeared in 33 regular-season games (nine starts) for the Lakers. Hachimura averaged 9.6 points, 4.7 rebounds and 22.4 minutes.

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Brooklyn Nets Update

In the Eastern Conference, Yuta Watanabe and his Brooklyn Nets teammates are preparing to play the Philadelphia 76ers in the first round. Game 1 is on Saturday, April 15 in Philly.

The Nets (45-37 in the regular season) are the sixth seed, while the Sixers (54-28) earned the third seed.

Watanabe averaged 5.6 points, 2.4 rebounds and 0.8 assists in 58 games. He shot a career-best 44.4% from 3-point range.

Author: Ed Odeven

Find Ed on JAPAN Forward's dedicated website, SportsLook. Follow his [Japan Sports Notebook] on Sundays, [Odds and Evens] during the week, and Twitter @ed_odeven.


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