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'You can't tell me he's a rookie': Lu Dort's offense keeps improving and so does the Thunder

Related coverage: Thunder vs. Timberwolves

Recap: Thunder 113, Timberwolves 104 Five takeaways from the Thunder's win at the Timberwolves Thunder journal: Darius Bazley's clutch shots halt Timberwolves runs

Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander set his feet as if he was going to shoot, but then he changed directions. Gilgeous-Alexander threw the ball to an open Luguentz Dort in the corner. Dort caught the pass and shot the 3-pointer in one smooth motion.

Dort, a two-way contract player, originally caught the Thunder’s attention with his defense. But in a 113-104 win at Minnesota on Saturday, Dort showed offensive development. He scored a career-high 10 points to help hand the Timberwolves (15-31) their ninth straight loss.

Dort started in place of Terrance Ferguson (personal reasons) for the fourth straight game. He was one of two rookies in the starting lineup, along with Darius Bazley. Filling in for Danilo Gallinari (left thumb), Bazley scored 15 points. He and Dort were two of seven players who scored in double figures for Oklahoma City, which won its fifth straight game to improve to 28-19.

“I think the biggest thing with those guys,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan told reporters of his young players, “is just being reliable and responsible on what they need to do. Being disciplined on what they need to do.”

Dort’s career offensive game came while also living up to his defensive reputation.

Dort began the game guarding Andrew Wiggins, who, along with most of the Timberwolves' roster went scoreless in the first quarter.

Minnesota center Karl-Anthony Towns scored 19 of his team’s 22 first-quarter points. He made three 3-pointers, fooled center Steven Adams on a shot fake to execute a give-and-go, drew two fouls. Backup center Nerlens Noel was out after undergoing a procedure on his left cheek to repair a fracture in his zygomatic arch, so Mike Muscala also guarded Towns.

Muscala, a stretch-five had a physical disadvantage against the 6-foot-11, 248-pound Towns. That made Dort’s steal halfway through the first quarter all the more important.

Towns was backing down Muscala in the post, gaining ground with each bump. Then, in came Dort, who picked Towns’ pocket.

But even in just 12 NBA games, those types of plays have become almost commonplace for Dort.

His scoring spurt in the third quarter was new.

Dort added five points in less than five minutes. First was Dort’s catch-and-shoot corner 3-pointer, which gave the Thunder a 10-point lead.

Three minutes later, Dort drained another 3. This time, he shot from the top of the arc after a handoff from Adams.

Dort topped off the offensive burst with a driving dunk. Timberwolves forward Robert Covington leaped at the rim to attempt a block, but Dort threw down a one-handed slam.

"Lu Dort,” veteran Chris Paul said, “you can't tell me he's a rookie."

The 20-year-old finished the night shooting 3-of-5 from the field and 2-of-4 from 3-point range.

Dort has shot efficiently from distance in the G League this season, making 33.3% of his attempts with the Blue. But the NBA has been a different story. Dort entered play Saturday shooting 18.2% from beyond the arc. On Saturday, he demonstrated improved offensive decision-making.

Dort ended the game the way he started, with consistent defensive effort. Dort stole the ball from Wiggins with 28 seconds on the clock to seal the Thunder’s nine-point victory.

“We’re doing a great job as a team,” Dort said on the Fox Sports Oklahoma broadcast. “We’re going to try to keep it going.”

Related Photos
<strong>OKC's Luguentz Dort (5) guards Minnesota's Andrew Wiggins (22) during the third quarter of the Thunder's 113-104 win Saturday at Target Center. [David Berding/USA TODAY Sports]</strong>

OKC's Luguentz Dort (5) guards Minnesota's Andrew Wiggins (22) during the third quarter of the Thunder's 113-104 win Saturday at Target Center. [David Berding/USA TODAY Sports]

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-e16328a84999c98f2cf631e690888feb.jpg" alt="Photo - OKC's Luguentz Dort (5) guards Minnesota's Andrew Wiggins (22) during the third quarter of the Thunder's 113-104 win Saturday at Target Center. [David Berding/USA TODAY Sports] " title=" OKC's Luguentz Dort (5) guards Minnesota's Andrew Wiggins (22) during the third quarter of the Thunder's 113-104 win Saturday at Target Center. [David Berding/USA TODAY Sports] "><figcaption> OKC's Luguentz Dort (5) guards Minnesota's Andrew Wiggins (22) during the third quarter of the Thunder's 113-104 win Saturday at Target Center. [David Berding/USA TODAY Sports] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-5eb402b290a63c055e818e94fb3e84ef.jpg" alt="Photo - Thunder guard Chris Paul (3) goes high to pass the ball as Timberwolves forward Andrew Wiggins, front left, during the second half Saturday. [AP Photo/Craig Lassig] " title=" Thunder guard Chris Paul (3) goes high to pass the ball as Timberwolves forward Andrew Wiggins, front left, during the second half Saturday. [AP Photo/Craig Lassig] "><figcaption> Thunder guard Chris Paul (3) goes high to pass the ball as Timberwolves forward Andrew Wiggins, front left, during the second half Saturday. [AP Photo/Craig Lassig] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-fdc080607eee636bef63839e81fd361c.jpg" alt="Photo - Oklahoma's Steven Adams (12) and Dennis Schroder (17) break up a pass intended for Minnesota's Karl-Anthony Towns (32) in the fourth quarter of the Thunder's 113-104 win Saturday at Target Center in Minneapolis. [David Berding/USA TODAY Sports] " title=" Oklahoma's Steven Adams (12) and Dennis Schroder (17) break up a pass intended for Minnesota's Karl-Anthony Towns (32) in the fourth quarter of the Thunder's 113-104 win Saturday at Target Center in Minneapolis. [David Berding/USA TODAY Sports] "><figcaption> Oklahoma's Steven Adams (12) and Dennis Schroder (17) break up a pass intended for Minnesota's Karl-Anthony Towns (32) in the fourth quarter of the Thunder's 113-104 win Saturday at Target Center in Minneapolis. [David Berding/USA TODAY Sports] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-e32056b42f32d23737ff5b70b071b73f.jpg" alt="Photo - Jan 25, 2020; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (2) drives to the basket against the Minnesota Timberwolves in the first quarter at Target Center. [David Berding/USA TODAY Sports]" title="Jan 25, 2020; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (2) drives to the basket against the Minnesota Timberwolves in the first quarter at Target Center. [David Berding/USA TODAY Sports]"><figcaption>Jan 25, 2020; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (2) drives to the basket against the Minnesota Timberwolves in the first quarter at Target Center. [David Berding/USA TODAY Sports]</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-9b88827448210774825fee39301ff802.jpg" alt="Photo - Jan 25, 2020; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Deonte Burton (right) drives to the basket against Minnesota Timberwolves forward Keita Bates-Diop (31) in the second quarter at Target Center. [David Berding/USA TODAY Sports]" title="Jan 25, 2020; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Deonte Burton (right) drives to the basket against Minnesota Timberwolves forward Keita Bates-Diop (31) in the second quarter at Target Center. [David Berding/USA TODAY Sports]"><figcaption>Jan 25, 2020; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Deonte Burton (right) drives to the basket against Minnesota Timberwolves forward Keita Bates-Diop (31) in the second quarter at Target Center. [David Berding/USA TODAY Sports]</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-7468fd85e3c267b7124c3288fa1d34e6.jpg" alt="Photo - Jan 25, 2020; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Hamidou Diallo (6) and Minnesota Timberwolves forward Keita Bates-Diop (31) battle for a loose ball in the first quarter at Target Center. [David Berding/USA TODAY Sports]" title="Jan 25, 2020; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Hamidou Diallo (6) and Minnesota Timberwolves forward Keita Bates-Diop (31) battle for a loose ball in the first quarter at Target Center. [David Berding/USA TODAY Sports]"><figcaption>Jan 25, 2020; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Hamidou Diallo (6) and Minnesota Timberwolves forward Keita Bates-Diop (31) battle for a loose ball in the first quarter at Target Center. [David Berding/USA TODAY Sports]</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-eca847bad33c4660de7687ec30edab00.jpg" alt="Photo - Jan 25, 2020; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Dennis Schroder (right) dribbles the ball past Minnesota Timberwolves forward Keita Bates-Diop (31) in the second quarter at Target Center. [David Berding/USA TODAY Sports]" title="Jan 25, 2020; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Dennis Schroder (right) dribbles the ball past Minnesota Timberwolves forward Keita Bates-Diop (31) in the second quarter at Target Center. [David Berding/USA TODAY Sports]"><figcaption>Jan 25, 2020; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Dennis Schroder (right) dribbles the ball past Minnesota Timberwolves forward Keita Bates-Diop (31) in the second quarter at Target Center. [David Berding/USA TODAY Sports]</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-4548aee7915bf9234765885fcce78328.jpg" alt="Photo - Jan 25, 2020; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder head coach Billy Donovan argues with referee Josh Tiven (58) in the second quarter against the Minnesota Timberwolves at Target Center. [David Berding/USA TODAY Sports]" title="Jan 25, 2020; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder head coach Billy Donovan argues with referee Josh Tiven (58) in the second quarter against the Minnesota Timberwolves at Target Center. [David Berding/USA TODAY Sports]"><figcaption>Jan 25, 2020; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder head coach Billy Donovan argues with referee Josh Tiven (58) in the second quarter against the Minnesota Timberwolves at Target Center. [David Berding/USA TODAY Sports]</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-c1aa1651f2eaaede3be0d3670d430779.jpg" alt="Photo - Jan 25, 2020; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Luguentz Dort (5) and Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns (32) battle for the ball in the first quarter at Target Center. [David Berding/USA TODAY Sports]" title="Jan 25, 2020; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Luguentz Dort (5) and Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns (32) battle for the ball in the first quarter at Target Center. [David Berding/USA TODAY Sports]"><figcaption>Jan 25, 2020; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Luguentz Dort (5) and Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns (32) battle for the ball in the first quarter at Target Center. [David Berding/USA TODAY Sports]</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-c93d01a804713ebff89a265498cb698a.jpg" alt="Photo - Jan 25, 2020; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Chris Paul (3) looks on before the start of a game against the Minnesota Timberwolves at Target Center. [David Berding/USA TODAY Sports]" title="Jan 25, 2020; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Chris Paul (3) looks on before the start of a game against the Minnesota Timberwolves at Target Center. [David Berding/USA TODAY Sports]"><figcaption>Jan 25, 2020; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Chris Paul (3) looks on before the start of a game against the Minnesota Timberwolves at Target Center. [David Berding/USA TODAY Sports]</figcaption></figure>
Maddie Lee

Maddie Lee followed an NBA team from Seattle to Oklahoma City, she just took a 10-year detour in between. Lee joined the Oklahoman in October 2018 as a Thunder beat writer, fresh off a stint in Oxford, Miss., where she covered Ole Miss for the... Read more ›

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