Thunder-Mavericks roundtable: Is Luka Doncic the one-and-only matchup for Lu Dort?

Thunder-Mavericks roundtable: Is Luka Doncic the one-and-only matchup for Lu Dort?

What’s the Thunder’s greatest advantage in its second-round series against Dallas, which starts Tuesday in OKC? Will size matter?

Sellout Crowd Network

By Sellout Crowd Network

| May 4, 2024, 10:05am CDT

Sellout Crowd Network

By Sellout Crowd Network

May 4, 2024, 10:05am CDT

The Mavericks finished off the Clippers on Friday night, finally giving the Thunder an answer to the question of who it will play in the Western Conference semifinals.

That series starts Tuesday in Oklahoma City.

Even though that question is answered, others remain, and our Sellout Crowd crew of Jenni Carlson, columnist; Mike Sherman, director of content; and Bobby Howard, director of social media, are here to answer a few.

Who does Lu Dort guard?

Sherm: The other team’s best player. If someone wants to make the case that’s Kyrie Irving for Dallas, they’re wrong but not crazy. Dort’s pattern of subbing out and in was synchronized with Brandon Ingram’s in the first round. Dort’s got to start out on Luka Doncic in this series, but it might not be as synchronized. I could see instances when Doncic is on the bench and Dort might be on the court to guard Irving.

Jenni: I’d start Dort on Luka, and I’d leave him there until Kyrie was threatening to go nuclear. Luka is the head of the snake, and Dort is so good at disrupting opponents. Disrupting Luka is what the Thunder need most on defense.

Bobby: It’s gotta be Luka Doncic, unless Kyrie Irving is leading the charge for that particular night. Doncic’s size makes him a better fit for Dort, though I could see Jalen Williams switching onto him at times. Expect plenty of Cason Wallace in this series, as the rookie will cut his teeth against Kyrie Irving. 

Jenni: OKC does have a lot of options on the perimeter. Jalen Williams and Cason Wallace are going to be super important against Kyrie. But I’d lock Dort in on Luka and see what Dort can do.

What should the Thunder’s level of concern be about Dereck Lively and Daniel Gafford in the pick and roll?

Bobby: It’s of the utmost importance for the Thunder defense. Daniel Gafford and Derrick Lively provide a different challenge for Chet Holmgren than Jonas Valanciunas, as does Luka Doncic’s ability to orchestrate an offense.

Sherm: Higher than it was against New Orleans. This is where the three-dimensional chess game between Mark Daigneault and Jason Kidd will play out. Can OKC’s small-ball approach make Dallas pay on the other end?  

Jenni: Lively and Gafford in concert with Luka, a master pick-and-roll conductor, is tough to guard. Kyrie is no slouch in the lob game either. The Thunder has to be on high alert because this Mavs offense is way more challenging than what Ingram and Co. brought in the first round or what the Clippers would’ve brought had they bested the Mavs. 

What is the Thunder’s biggest advantage in this series?

Jenni: I know many have seen the Thunder’s youth as a detriment — won’t such a young, inexperienced team be vulnerable in the playoffs? — but in this series, the youth of this team could be a great asset. In the two wins the Thunder had over the Mavs in the regular season when either Luka or Kyrie played, OKC had a fast-break-point advantage in both, 17-8 in a game won by six points and 18-9 in a game won by seven. Getting out and running on those young legs could be a huge advantage.

Sherm: Youth plays a part in Oklahoma City’s relentless commitment and ability to drive to the basket. And the Thunder has more grade-A ballhandlers. This will be one of the rare instances when Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is not the best ballhandler on the court. That distinction belongs to Irving. But everyone the Thunder puts on the court can create their own shot and do so for a teammate. 

Bobby: OKC has the edge on the wings, as well as overall depth. The stage is set for Jalen Williams to make himself known as a star to a national audience. Plus, if the Thunder’s collective of gritty defenders can pester Irving and Doncic, which Mavericks will step up? 

Jenni: The depth could be huge. Totally agree. The Thunder needs to dominate their matchups on any Mav not named Luka or Kyrie.

 

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