How did Lu Dort wreak havoc on Brandon Ingram in the Thunder’s Game 1 win over the Pelicans?


Sunday’s opener between the Thunder and Pelicans was barely 10 seconds old when Brandon Ingram realized what he was up against.

He struggled on the baseline, trying to free himself from a human bear trap. Lu Dort, OKC’s all-world defender, was attached to him. They locked arms, with Ingram trying to get out of the cell.

He hadn’t even touched the ball yet.

When he finally did, Dort stayed and Ingram had just seconds to work. Ingram was placed in these positions all night, essentially asked to cut the red or blue wire with a blaring alarm in his face. That’s the treatment most top options get from Dort, who Ingram immediately implemented with Zion Williamson.

OKC’s Tasmanian Dort delivered a complete night of havoc. Bodying Ingram, interrupting actions, sending him off routes, flying to compete with arms outstretched like an uncomfortable mannequin.

More: Mussatto: Do ​​you think Mark Daigneault will shorten the Thunder’s rotation in the playoffs? Think again.

“My main goal is to be physical and make everything difficult,” Dort said. “I try to do everything I can to get over a screen and really stay in front of it.”

At times, when Dort couldn’t get stuck to Ingram like he hoped, he made just enough jabs and stalls for rookie Chet Holmgren to slide to the help side and slide in a desperate attempt. Even in rotation, Dort found ways to headbutt Ingram’s shooting hand.

But there was almost no change, because few people were better prepared than Dort to prepare for the rotating screens. He defended Ingram for 37.5 partial possessions for nearly nine minutes of the game in OKC’s 94-92 victory Sunday. Meanwhile, Ingram shot 1 of 7 and committed two turnovers.

Ingram’s only bucket on Dort came with less than four minutes left on a less-than-easy transition opportunity. With the two essentially competing at the rim, Dort timed Ingram’s rally to jump with him vertically. Ingram stretched as far as his lanky limbs would allow, almost posing like a Julius Erving poster to land the ball perfectly.

On others, Ingram balled, shot off one foot or half-heartedly fired over leaning jumpers from mid-range.

More: Brandon Ingram struggles, Trey Murphy III shines as Pelicans fall to Thunder in Game 1

New Orleans forward Brandon Ingram (14) attempts to pass Oklahoma City guard Luguentz Dort (5) in the first quarter Sunday night of the Thunder’s 94-92 victory at the Paycom Center.

Thunder coach Mark Daigneault praised his group Monday for its switchability. Cason Wallace, who had been targeted by CJ McCollum on the last two possessions, sealed the game with a save. Kenrich Williams helped set the tone with a late first-quarter possession against Ingram that provided a window into his night. Jalen Williams looked more than capable.

But players like Ingram are licking their lips at the rotations that come with sloppy switches, at the possibilities that can open up with anything other than superb switching. Especially when the choice is Dort or the field.

No one defended Ingram from distance as long as Dort (8:41), with Jalen Williams trailing far behind (4:02). It was largely a matter of compensating for successive mistakes or alternating looks. Ingram used a few of those possessions to speed up pick-and-rolls and make tough shots that wouldn’t fall to Dort. Closed windows around him.

Before OKC can win a series on the margins — by prioritizing which shots to allow, by focusing on the rebounding battle — it must limit New Orleans’ high-scoring options to some degree. Without Williamson, it is essential that Dort torments Ingram. Luckily for the Thunder, Dort has been preparing for this moment for five seasons.

“This is what I trained for,” Dort said. “I’ve been doing this my whole career now.”

More: Meet Jeremy Price, the tattooed super fan of OKC Thunder games

Game 2: Thunder vs. Pelicans

ADVICE : 8:30 p.m. Wednesday at Paycom Center (TNT, Bally Sports Oklahoma)

This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: Thunder vs. Pelicans: How Lu Dort shut out Brandon Ingram in Game 1

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