The Los Angeles Lakers’ first win of the season came in unlikely fashion, stifling the Phoenix Suns — holding them to 11 points — in the fourth and final quarter behind excellent defense from backup big man Christian Wood as head coach Darvin Ham’s adjustment against Kevin Durant.
Wood played the entire fourth quarter and guarded Durant for the majority of the period. He was able to stay in front of one of the most offensively skilled players in NBA history, and while Durant did score nine of the team’s 11 fourth quarter points, he did so on an inefficient 4-for-11 from the field.
Wood first chose to take a wide-lens view of how the Lakers rallied to defeat the Suns after trailing by 12 entering the fourth quarter.
“I think the rebounding, the defensive intensity, guys staying together down the stretch,” Wood said. “Bron was getting everybody offensively in line and then being able to attack down hill has been big for us.”
But one of the biggest takeaways from the rally is the faith Wood felt the Lakers had in him to take on such a difficult defensive assignment.
“Just them trusting me. It was a big assignment, I accepted the challenge and my teammates trusted me,” Wood said. “Bron trusted me, AD trusted me. He was big in the double teams, I feel like it altered some of his shots. He turned it over one time and we had Bron going down hill and we got a foul in transition. So just showing length for him, he still had 39, but just altering shots and making things tough for him was big for me.”
Wood’s teammates absolutely showed faith in the big man, but it was the show of trust from Ham that allowed Wood to play with as much confidence as he did, even when his shot wasn’t falling with consistency.
“Yeah, just trying to be versatile. [Darvin Ham] trusts my versatility that I’ve shown him in training camp and the preseason. I can defend these guys and he trusted me tonight… So hopefully he keeps it up and I can do it again.
“I trust it. I trust him. He said he was gonna throw me in the fire. We were getting beat on the boards I think early in the game so he told me to go in there and rebound. My shot wasn’t falling but he told me to impact the game in other ways and I think I did that tonight.”
Even with the success that Wood had against Durant in the fourth quarter, he had nothing but kind words for the Suns superstar in discussing what it’s like to guard someone like Durant.
“It’s tough (laughs). It’s tough. Like I said, end of the day, I think he still had 39 but just altering shots, making it hard for him by making him take tough shots and making him pass over AD and me with length is big time. So I think we did that tonight and we got momentum so hopefully we keep this up.”
If Wood can be viewed as the type of player who can cover an assignment like that for longer stretches of time, it alters the type of ceiling that the Lakers can have defensively. The ability to allow Anthony Davis to roam the paint while Wood takes on more difficult assignments opens the door for more immediate defensive success in L.A.
Davis praises Wood’s effort
The Lakers defensive superstar, Davis, had high praise for Wood for taking on a difficult assignment and finding success with it.
“He took on a challenge. We do a couple of different looks myself, Bron and C-Wood and we just talked to him,” Davis said. “Try and make it tough for him. Throwing different bodies at him, obviously. He’s a great scorer in so many ways where it doesn’t matter who’s in front of him. He’s going to get to his shot. We just want to make it tough and make a contest. C-Wood did a great job, being physical with him. Making him take tough shots. … So you know, he came to us and said he wanted to take the heat at the end then we just start going into different schemes that we run.”
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