Rui Hachimura moved into the starting lineup and scored 10 points in almost 42 minutes but his Los Angeles Lakers were unable to keep their NBA playoffs alive on Monday, losing 113-111 to the Denver Nuggets.
Facing a series sweep in the Western Conference finals, coach Darvin Ham called on the 25-year-old Japanese to keep star Denver center Nikola Jokic in check on the Lakers' home court.
Hachimura had limited success slowing the two-time league MVP who had 30 points, 14 rebounds and 13 assists for his third triple-double of the series, as Jokic and his Canadian sidekick Jamal Murray led the Nuggets to their first NBA finals in franchise history.
A former Gonzaga University standout, Hachimura struggled on the offensive end, scoring all 10 of his 10 points in the first half on 3-for-12 from the floor overall, but did contribute seven rebounds.
Not even LeBron James' 40 points, could extend the Lakers' season, with the 38-year-old superstar stifled on the final possession with a chance to tie the game. James misses out on an 11th appearance in the NBA finals.
Hachimura, who landed in Los Angeles after a mid-season trade from the Washington Wizards, averaged 11.2 points and 4.5 rebounds in the regular season and 12.2 points on 55.7 percent shooting across the entire playoffs in which he became the first Japanese player to reach an NBA conference finals.
He is a restricted free agent who the Lakers could bring back next season.
Last week, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski called Hachimura's addition to the Lakers a "revelation" and said the team traded for him "with the idea that he would have a long-term future with them."