There was something beautiful, even inspiring, in watching Benedict Mathurin and Lujoentz Dort pit themselves against each other for a jump ball in the closing seconds of the second quarter between the Indiana Pacers and Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday.
Moreover, both Quebecers, good friends, faced each other for the second time this season, but the picture was no less strong. They’re young, they’re from Montreal, and they’re both staples on their team…
In the last duel between the two formations, in January, Oklahoma City won by 20 points. The Montreal Nationals also exchanged jerseys after the meeting. Now the Pacers and Mathurins got their revenge in front of their home fans on Friday, despite the absence of Tyrese Halliburton and Miles Turner. They prevailed 121-117, denying their opponents two valuable points in the race for the playoffs.
No doubt many were listening, Quebec fans had a great duel between the two young players.
Mathurin, who is already an important offensive component of the Pacers team, has also often faced the majestic Dort, the defensive Thunder treasure, in one encounter.
No doubt determined to avenge his people, Mathurin quickly made his presence feel offensive by scoring 10 points in the first two quarters. In 19 minutes and 14 seconds of play, he managed 80% of his shot attempts and three rebounds as the Pacers led 65-61.
Dort, who was more careful on offense at the start of the game, scored 8 points in the third quarter alone. On the other side of the court, he was solid throughout the game, recovering 7 defensive rebounds and limiting Mathurin to just 5 more points for a total of 15. However, the young Pacers star was in for a stellar defensive start at the end of the game, preventing the Thunder from tying the game in seconds Last.
Two main components
Away from the score, this confrontation was above all a fresh reminder to young Quebec basketball players that anything is possible: the dream of the NBA is indeed reachable. Mathurin and Dort, aged 20 and 23 respectively, are proof of that.
Mathurin was playing his first season in the NBA this year. The first round selection in the recent draft did not disappoint. From his first games, he took advantage of the confidence his coach Rick Carlisle gave him to show his natural ability to rush to the basket. In his seventh game, he scored 32 points in the Pacers’ victory over the Brooklyn Nets.
The youngster exudes confidence and it shows every time he steps on the pitch. “I always thought I’d go here and I’m not surprised to be here,” he said Journalism After his first game in the NBA, in Oct. I’ve worked for it and want to make sure I stay as long as possible. »
The offensive player’s output varied from game to game. With that, he maintained an average of 16.6 points per game, which puts him second among rookies in the league in this regard. He also maintains a free throw percentage of 82.5% (340 hits on 412 attempts!). That’s not to mention the record he broke on Wednesday: He became the rookie with the most three-pointers in Pacers history. His influence within the team will be great and for a long time.
As for Dort, this season was the first of his $87.5 million, five-year deal. With $17.5 million a year, he is, we must remember, the highest paid Quebec athlete of all sports combined.
Never drafted, the #5 has seen his defensive role solidify this season, as the Thunder’s rebuilding efforts are already bearing fruit. Dort was therefore less productive offensively; It’s his defensive game that will make him a must-have for Oklahoma City in the coming seasons, thanks to his physical fitness and rushing ability in particular.
While the Pacers can no longer dream of a playoff stadium, the Thunder are still in the running for the championship playing in (hem).
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