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Luguentz Dort plays unlikely hero in Thunder's comeback win against Rockets

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Five takeaways from the Thunder's 112-107 win at Houston


James Harden held his right hand up and searched for an explanation.

There wasn’t one.

There was no explaining how Thunder guard Luguentz Dort, a rookie two-way player logging his first career start, maneuvered around a Clint Capela screen and shuffled back in front of Harden just in time to draw a game-changing charge against the best scorer in basketball.

But the Thunder has routinely defied logic this season, and it did so yet again with a 112-107 win against the Rockets in a Martin Luther King Jr. Day matinee.

The Thunder, without starters Steven Adams and Terrance Ferguson, outscored the Rockets 41-20 in the fourth quarter to complete a 17-point comeback — its fourth comeback of at least 17 points this season. OKC closed the game on a 27-7 run.

The Thunder trailed 105-104 with 1:48 to go when Dort took the charge.

Ferguson, who was out for personal reasons, was the Thunder’s go-to option to defend Harden in the first two matchups with Houston. The responsibility Monday was passed to Dort, who surprisingly drew the start over Hamidou Diallo.

Dort, in a career-high 32 minutes, hounded Harden. It was Arizona State on Arizona State — two of three Sun Devils in the league sparring in an unlikely battle.

Harden, who entered play Monday averaging a league-high 37.1 points per game, needed 29 shots to score 29 points.

“I thought Lu did an unbelievable job,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan told reporters after the game. “He played a lot of minutes, really worked hard on Harden. You’re not going to be perfect on him all the time, but I thought the effort that he gave for the 30-plus minutes that he was on the floor was huge for us.”

Harden, the 2018 MVP, shot 9-of-29 from the field and 1-of-17 from 3-point range. More than a third of Harden’s points came at the free throw line.

Russell Westbrook was the more efficient Rocket with 32 points, 12 assists and 11 rebounds on 16-of-24 shooting. This time, Westbrook’s former team was the target of his triple-double wrath.

Harden was held to five fourth-quarter points while the Thunder shot 67% in the final frame.

Thunder point guard Chris Paul scored a first-half career high 27 points on 9-of-12 shooting against the Rockets, but he scored just one point in the second half.

Instead, it was Dennis Schroder (15), Danilo Gallinari (12) and Gilgeous-Alexander (7) who combined for 34 of the Thunder’s 40 points in the fourth quarter. Schroder’s 16-foot jumper with 28 seconds left gave the Thunder a three-point cushion.

OKC overcame a 16-point fourth-quarter road deficit for the third time in Thunder history.

“We showed it to everybody, to ourselves first, since the beginning of the season,” Gallinari told reporters when asked about the Thunder’s never-quit mindset.

“That’s what we do.”

Related Photos
<strong>Oklahoma City guards Dennis Schroder and Chris Paul celebrate the Thunder's victory Monday against Houston. OKC came back from a 17-point deficit. [AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith]</strong>

Oklahoma City guards Dennis Schroder and Chris Paul celebrate the Thunder's victory Monday against Houston. OKC came back from a 17-point deficit. [AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith]

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-077614c4d070e40482e954f63327a4b3.jpg" alt="Photo - Oklahoma City guards Dennis Schroder and Chris Paul celebrate the Thunder's victory Monday against Houston. OKC came back from a 17-point deficit. [AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith] " title=" Oklahoma City guards Dennis Schroder and Chris Paul celebrate the Thunder's victory Monday against Houston. OKC came back from a 17-point deficit. [AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith] "><figcaption> Oklahoma City guards Dennis Schroder and Chris Paul celebrate the Thunder's victory Monday against Houston. OKC came back from a 17-point deficit. [AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-960148c47ec9aa7524902f23d350cb21.jpg" alt="Photo - Houston's James Harden, left, puts up a shot while Oklahoma City's Luguentz Dort defends during the first half of Monday's game in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith) " title=" Houston's James Harden, left, puts up a shot while Oklahoma City's Luguentz Dort defends during the first half of Monday's game in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith) "><figcaption> Houston's James Harden, left, puts up a shot while Oklahoma City's Luguentz Dort defends during the first half of Monday's game in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith) </figcaption></figure>
Joe Mussatto

Joe Mussatto joined The Oklahoman in August 2018 to cover OU football, men’s basketball and softball. He previously covered University of Kentucky football and basketball for SEC Country. Mussatto is from Oklahoma City and lives in Norman. Read more ›

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