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Lakers vs. Rockets Preview: Will Christian Wood get what he wants?

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Whether Anthony Davis plays or not, the Lakers are going to have to find a way to try and slow down Rockets star Christian Wood.

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Chicago Bulls v LA Lakers Photo by Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images

Rockets center Christian Wood has been good to start the season. So good, in fact, that his teammates have compared him to Anthony Davis. So perhaps it shouldn’t be a surprise that Wood admitted that he’s looking forward to putting those comparisons to the test when Houston hosts the Lakers on Sunday night.

Davis missed the most recent Lakers game with the right adductor strain he’s been dealing with for a few days, but head coach Frank Vogel made it sound like that was a fairly minor setback, and it doesn’t seem like the kind of thing that is likely to keep Davis sidelined for a ton of time. And even if Davis does miss Sunday’s game, the Lakers play the Rockets again on Tuesday, so it seems probable that at some point soon Wood will get the matchup with Davis he’s craving.

The Rockets big man also has reason to be confident. In his first season since signing with Houston in free agency, Wood is averaging career highs of 23.3 points, 10.8 rebounds, 2 blocks and 1 steal, and has looked like a great partner for Rockets star James Harden — at least if the latter rescinds his trade request at some point. But regardless of what happens with Harden, Wood has been great, and at just 25 years old, he can give the Rockets some hope for the future.

He’ll also present a challenge for the Lakers, who struggled so much in their first matchup against a stretch five this season that Davis ripped their defense as an expletive we’ve printed too much on this website over the last few days and called out multiple teammates by name. Wood is only shooting 25.9% from three so far this season, but he’s a career 35.4% shooter from deep, and he’s shooting 66.7% from 10-16 feet. The point is: He’s more than versatile enough to give a Lakers defense that has dropped from fifth in the league to eighth over their last two games some problems if their communication doesn’t get better, and conversely, they may be just what he needs to get his shot going.

Will a matchup against a young upstart who wants to take him on motivate Davis to take on the challenge do his part to stop Wood, and try to make him more careful what he wishes for in the future? Only time will tell, but whether Davis plays or not, the Lakers will have to execute better against the Rockets, or Wood is going to (justifiably) feel a lot more comfortable with such lofty comparisons in the future.

Notes and Updates

  • The Lakers’ injury report is the same as it’s been the last two games, with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (left ankle sprain), Davis (right adductor strain) and LeBron James (left ankle sprain) all listed as questionable to play, but in addition to his comments on Davis, Vogel also said that he was “hopeful” that Friday would be the last game Caldwell-Pope missed, and that he’d probably be back in the lineup against Houston.
  • As to the Rockets’ other big threat, Harden, Wesley Matthews was asked about some of the challenges of guarding a player like that, and I thought his answer was informative.

“I think James is probably one of the guys that I’ve been paired up the most with since I’ve been in the league. Obviously we came in together. I was in Utah, he was in OKC, so same division. I was in Portland, he was in OKC, same division. He went to Houston, I was in Portland, so we played each other in the playoffs, so we’ve seen each other a lot.

“It’s the same approach for anybody. You want to make everybody uncomfortable. As far as the schemes and all that stuff, yeah that varies depending on the team and depending on time/score situations and all that stuff, but he’s a great scorer, he’s one of the best scorers that this game will ever see, so you just try to make things tough. You’ve just got to make him think a little bit more, stop letting the game come so naturally. You’ve just got to make the game as uncomfortable as possible, but I’ve got a team with me. It’s not just me or KCP or whoever else may be on him. It’s going to be all of us defending all of them.”

The Lakers and Rockets will tip off at 4:00 p.m. PT on Sunday. The game will be televised locally on Spectrum SportsNet.

For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.