Winning the physical battle was crucial to the Los Angeles Lakers' 4-2 Western Conference semifinal series win over the Golden State Warriors, Japanese forward Rui Hachimura said Friday.
Speaking to reporters after the Lakers clinched the best-of-seven series with a 122-101 victory, Hachimura said the team was determined to impose itself physically to blunt defending champion Golden State's offensive firepower.
"Their offense is so different. They are really physical," said Hachimura. "They're a great team, but we didn't back down."
"We talked about how we had to compete. The game plan was pretty good. So we just had to put (in) the effort and energy tonight.
Hachimura continued his impactful playoff contribution in 16 minutes off the bench at Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles. He had nine points, three rebounds and two blocks, including an emphatic fourth-quarter rejection of star Golden State shooting guard Klay Thompson, who was limited to eight points on 3-of-19 shooting.
"We talked about it. We had to get into his body," Hachimura said. "If he has a little space, he can shoot, so you've just got to stick to him and don't give up."
Hachimura, who arrived in a January trade from the Washington Wizards, said he continued to be awed by future Hall of Fame teammate LeBron James following his 30-point, nine-rebound, nine-assist performance in the clinching game.
"He's amazing," Hachimura said. "That's one thing I was surprised about when I got here. How (much) he takes care of his body, the way he thinks about the game, everything is high-level and so consistent."
"It (feels) crazy and amazing that I'm really his teammate and I'm watching (him up) close. It's been great."
The Lakers will start the Western Conference finals on the road against the top-seeded Denver Nuggets on Tuesday.
"We're going to have a few days in between, so maybe we can get some rest tomorrow," Hachimura said. "We've just got to rest and get it out of our mind for a little bit, then get back to work."