In Game 2 of the Portland Trail Blazers first-round series vs. the Denver Nuggets, it was the Damian Lillard show in the first half.
The Trail Blazers superstar poured 32 points on the Nuggets on 9-for-16 shooting with a barrage of eight threes before halftime.
As Denver went into the locker room, Nuggets coach Mike Malone gathered his staff and began game-planning on how to better contain Lillard in the second half. Aaron Gordon stepped in, looked at the coaching staff and simply said “I got him.”
After taking Facundo Campazzo off Lillard and switching Gordon to be his primary assignment, Lillard scored just 10 points in the final 24 minutes.
“I love those matchups, man," Gordon said after the Nuggets claimed Game 2 with a 128-109 victory to tie up the series at one game apiece. "I really don’t care what the matchup is, it could be a one, it could be point guard, it could be a center, I’m here for it all."
The Nuggets had a lot of praise for Gordon’s sweltering defense after Monday’s game, especially Malone.
“This is something Aaron Gordon has been wanting to do and he just made it hard,” Malone said. “Listen, Dame Lillard is an incredible player, we saw that in that first half. But I think Aaron’s size makes it a little bit tougher to get those shots off.”
He continued, “That’s one of the reasons we brought A.G. here, that defensive versatility. Obviously, he embraced it. He wanted it.”
On Wednesday, when NBC Sports Northwest’s Dwight Jaynes asked Lillard about Denver acting like they found something special in Gordon’s ability to defend to defend him, the six-time NBA All-Star issued this ice-cold response.
When asked Wednesday about adjustments for Gordon’s defense on Lillard, Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts said that he believes “a lot’s being made of that.” He explained that the reason Portland lost the game had nothing to do with the head-to-head matchup. Instead, it was about the defense.
Like the Nuggets, who had their opportunity to make adjustments in Game 2 to prepare for the Blazers, now on home court at Moda Center, Lillard will be ready to show Gordon and the Nuggets what he can do when provoked.
Stotts knows after witnessing it time and time again, Lillard can get into the zone against any player in the league, and he will never back down from a challenge.