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Lakers' Anthony Davis steps up on defense vs. Clippers. 'I'm very comfortable in guarding anybody'

Los Angeles, CA - January 07: Lakers forward Anthony Davis, #3, right, battles Clippers forward Paul George, #13m for control of a loose ball in the second half at Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles Sunday, Jan. 7, 2024. Lakers beat the Clippers 106-103. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

The Lakers had a tenuous one-point lead over the Clippers late in the fourth quarter when Anthony Davis switched on defense to guard the dangerous Paul George on the perimeter. The 6-10 Davis crouched low on defense, moving his feet, keeping George in front of him, making it difficult for the wing player as he got off a shot that he missed.

A few players later, the two of them were going back at it with the score tied. Davis was back in his defensive stance and George was back attacking. Again, Davis kept George in front of him and forced him into another missed shot.

Those were big moments for the Lakers in a tense 106-103 win over the Clippers on Sunday night at Crypto.com Arena — moments when Davis again showed why is considered one of the best defensive players in the NBA and why the Lakers depend on their center to anchor their defense at any spot on the court.

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"Yeah, obviously [George is] a phenomenal player. He has great moves. He can shoot the ball well, can drive. All the tricks and everything like that,” said Davis, who had one block and three steals to go along with his 22 points and 10 rebounds. “So, my job is to stay in front and make it tough for them. I'm very comfortable in guarding anybody in this league. I've shown that I can guard most positions in the one through five. And my team is very confident in me guarding those guys and making plays defensively for us. So, anytime that you can get a stop on a player like that, I feel so good."

In the decisive fourth quarter, during which Davis played 10:11, he scored eight points. But it was the defense by Davis that saved the game for the Lakers. To be sure, that’s nothing new for him. He’s fourth in the league in blocked shots (2.6) and second in rebounds (12.3).

Whether it's in the post, blocking shots, or playing against players on the wing, Davis is proving why he’s a top-notch defender.

“That’s why, to me, he should be at the top of the lists, in terms of defensive player of the year,” Lakers coach Darvin Ham said. “Just his versatility to protect the rim, play in the in-between, show his hands, move his feet, guard out beyond the three-point line, not foul and to force guys into difficult situations.”

Christian Wood steps up for Lakers

In his last three games, Christian Wood has emerged as a major contributor for the Lakers.

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His minutes have increased to 18.7per game over that span. And in the process, he has delivered 11.0 points on 57.1% shooting and 7.7 rebounds per game.

He had another solid outing against the Clippers, grabbing 10 rebounds, scoring nine points and playing some good defense.

“It's confidence for me. I'm a confident player,” Wood said. “Guys like LeBron [James], AD, DLo [D’Angelo Russell], AR [Austin Reaves], they're trusting me to score the ball. I think early on in the season, I was more so being used to defend and try to be a help-side guy and AD needed help with rebounds. Now, it's more like 'Go out there and try to score if you have a shot.' If not, then dribble handoff, go second-side and the guards are going to try to get you a look … I've been shooting with confidence.”

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.