A few moments after he had cut to the basket and scored on a layup after receiving a pass from Russell Westbrook, Kent Bazemore hustled back on defense to defend crafty Phoenix Suns All-Star guard Chris Paul.
Bazemore, a 6-foot-4 wing, got down in his defensive stance, and with a flick of a wrist, he swiped the ball from Paul, causing a Suns turnover.
Bazemore then took off down the court and set up in the corner, knocking down a three-pointer to pull the Lakers to within three points of the Suns in the third quarter.
In a game with few highlights for the home team, Bazemore provided some with his defensive presence and energy during the Lakers’ 123-94 exhibition loss to the Suns on Sunday night at Staples Center.
“Yeah, he was a star tonight, he was exceptional,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “Really on both sides of the ball, but in particular on the defensive end. Four steals, just numerous plays where he’s in the passing lane, working to contain, pressuring his own man, really excelled on the defensive end and then knocked down a few threes as well and played extra-pass basketball. So really excited about what he’s doing for us.”
Bazemore, 32, finished the game with those four steals in 24 minutes 38 seconds of play.
He also had eight points, shooting three for seven from the field, two for five from three-point range. He contributed four rebounds and two assists, completing his all-around game.
“As far as Kent goes, I mean, he came in ready to play tonight,” teammate Carmelo Anthony said. “He was locking up. That second quarter, he spearheaded us getting out in transition, getting easy baskets. He was a major part of the reason why we were able to go on that [14-0] run. That’s who he is. That’s what we know him to be and I’m sure that’s why he’s a part of this team.”
The Lakers were out of sorts in the first quarter and parts of the second. They were down by 12 points in the second but went on a 14-0 run to take a two-point lead.
Bazemore did his part, his energy on defense helping the Lakers turn things around.
He threw a lob to Anthony Davis for a dunk in the first half. Bazemore made a steal and pass to Davis for another basket.
“He’s doing a good job of just being active,” Westbrook said about Bazemore. “That’s what he does and finding ways. That’s what he’s going to bring to our ball club every night. His intensity and being able to constantly do that each and every night is something that we challenge him with. He’s been doing a great job thus far.”
Bazemore spent most of the game defending Paul, a challenge for the Lakers wing, to be sure.
Bazemore defends LeBron James and Westbrook in practice, showing his capability of switching onto a variety of offensive players.
“I really think Baze has separated himself some,” Vogel said. “His wingspan and athleticism have been more impressive up close, in that regard.”
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.
Source: Yahoo Sports