As the Thunder dismantled the Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving-less Nets Thursday, Lu Dort displayed his latest stellar performance against James Harden.
Dort finished with 27 points on a season-high six made 3-pointers, shooting 60% from behind the arc. It was his fifth-highest game score of the season, according to basketball reference.
Dort’s seemingly constant great performances against the future Hall of Famer beg the question: Is he really that much better when playing Harden?
Well, let’s take a look.
Dort has faced Harden ten times in his career, with six of those coming in games two through seven of the 2019-20 OKC-Houston playoff series.
In those ten games the Thunder are 5-5. Dort has averaged 14 points in those games, with that number jumping to 19 points in the three games since that playoff series.
For reference, Dort’s career average is 12.7 points per game and is 15.1 since that breakout playoff series.
So Dort’s scoring numbers get a slight bump against the All-Star, but what about his defense?
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Dort is known as a defense first player and that has absolutely shown up when guarding Harden.
The NBA world got its first real glimpse at what Dort could do in Game 7 of that playoff series with the Rockets — taking the assignment of trying to shut down the league’s most potent scorer.
The underdog Thunder eventually lost the game, but Dort’s impact was front and center — holding Harden to 17 points on 4-15 shooting.
That defense has shown up multiple times between these two, with Dort outsourcing Harden in four of the ten meetings.
In the three meetings since the bubble, Harden has been held slightly below his averages over that span — putting up 22.3 points on 42.9% shooting vs. Dort compared to 23.7 points on 44.4% shooting.
Final verdict: Dort has had some of the best performances of his career against Harden, including a 30-point Game 7 performance which might just be the best of his career. He has, however, had just as many forgettable ones.