With Ricky Rubio out, Utah’s long, long specimen Dante Exum was stuck with one of the most frustrating defensive assignments in basketball: James Harden and the 1,001 dribbles. The stringy Australian has spent just over half of his NBA career injured, but in those healthy stretches has shown serious defensive acumen, as in this sequence from Game 1:
In Game 2, with greater responsibilities, Exum did not disappoint. He was credited with guarding James Harden for 22 possessions, on which the Rockets’ star scored only two points and missed all seven of his field goal attempts, per Second Spectrum. Exum does an admirable job of hanging patiently through all of Harden’s interminable feints and preparatory dribbles, giving him no air to breathe, and getting as close as possible to skin-on-skin contact. He was +10 in his 18 minutes on the court.
Still, defense was hardly the highlight of Exum’s nine-point, four-rebound, two-assist contribution to the Jazz win. The best (and most nerve-wracking) part of any Dante Exum outing is when he decides to take it to the rack. Every time Exum drives to the basket, he appears to be putting himself on roller skates. But this fake handoff late in the fourth quarter gave him all the open runway he needed to sky for a triumphal dunk:
Exum is still only 22. It’ll be very cool to watch as this hilariously athletic baby giraffe learns some more basketball moves.