For much of the first three quarters, Game 1 of the first round of the NBA Playoffs between the Los Angeles Lakers and Memphis Grizzlies was hotly contested. But down the stretch, Austin Reaves came up big to propel L.A. to a 128-112 victory.
He finished with 23 points on 8-of-13 shooting while going 3-of-5 from beyond the 3-point line, and Twitter showered him with praise.
— kuz (@kylekuzma) April 16, 2023
My bad … Reaves like that 🙏🏽
— Damian Lillard (@Dame_Lillard) April 16, 2023
Hachimura & Reaves 🔥
— Jake Paul (@jakepaul) April 16, 2023
See that’s what I’m talking about!!
— Earvin Magic Johnson (@MagicJohnson) April 16, 2023
Austin Reaves to all his haters pic.twitter.com/k6iIrztCM5
— Robert Griffin III (@RGIII) April 16, 2023
If anyone wondered how Reaves would respond to his first playoff game, especially on the road in front of a raucous crowd in Memphis, he answered such questions in impressive fashion.
Down the stretch, with the game hanging in the balance and L.A. hanging on to a slight lead, the undrafted wing scored a succession of baskets to stretch his team’s advantage and put the game out of reach.
It was a continuation of what was a very strong regular season from him in which he averaged 13.0 points and 3.4 assists a game. His efficiency was amazing, as he shot 52.9 percent overall, 39.8 percent from beyond the arc and 86.4 percent from the free-throw line.
He also did an impressive job all year of drawing contact from defenders and collecting lots of foul shot attempts, almost on a nightly basis.
In doing all that, Reaves has become one of the Lakers’ best and most valuable players. He was their sixth man for much of the year, but late in the schedule, he entered their starting lineup after picking up his production following the All-Star break.
The only problem is that he will become a free agent following the conclusion of the playoffs, and he could very well be pricing himself out of the Lakers’ range. There is the possibility that another team could offer him at least $20 million a year, in which case L.A. would be hard-pressed to match and pay him what he’s worth.
But for now, he could very well push his team to overachieve this spring.