Luguentz Dort was assigned to LeBron James as his primary defender on the night, and he did an exemplary job despite the odds.
Dort emerged as one of the biggest steals of the 2019 NBA draft. The Canadian went undrafted, but was picked up by OKC as they looked to rebuild. After the departures of Paul George and Russell Westbrook, they needed a new young core to start over.
Acquiring Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was a step in the right direction. Lu Dort soon proved worthy of Sam Presti’s trust, playing lockdown defense all along as a rookie. He was a crucial member of the Thunder team that took the Rockets all the way to 7 games in the playoffs last year.
How Luguentz Dort clamped down LeBron James in the Lakers’ final possession
With 30 seconds left, the Lakers held a 1-point lead ahead of their final possession in overtime. LeBron James took the ball in his possession on the right side of their court. He tried to hold the triple threat position, but Dort was equal to the task.
A more professional scorer like Kevin Durant or Kobe Bryant might have gotten a good shot off. But Dort’s pressure knocked James thoroughly out of his stride. He couldn’t put the ball on the floor without risking it, so he opted for a one-dribble stepback.
The result was a shot with horrible mechanics that consigned LeBron to a 9-of-20 shooting night. If the Lakers hadn’t held a lead at the point, James would have roundly been criticized. But Luguentz Dort deserves tons of praise for his work as well. Just take a look at his hustle:
Lu Dort’s defense on LeBron was incredible 👀 pic.twitter.com/jExLIUsoSn
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) February 11, 2021
LeBron eventually came up with a clutch steal off a terribly drawn-up inbounds play by Mark Deignault. It was almost as if the Thunder coach was looking to toss the game and advance their tankwagon.