Aaron Gordon Said 'I Got' Damian Lillard; Dame Says 'I'm Never Going Against 1 Guy'

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVMay 25, 2021

Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard (0) passes away from Denver Nuggets forward Aaron Gordon (50) in the third quarter of Game 2 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series Monday, May 24, 2021, in Denver. (AP Photo/Joe Mahoney)
AP Photo/Joe Mahoney

Denver Nuggets forward Aaron Gordon made a simple statement to the team's coaching staff at halftime Monday night after Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard scored 32 first-half points—"I got him."

Gordon and the Nuggets were able to hold Lillard to 10 points after the break as they cruised to a 128-109 victory to level the teams' first-round playoff series at one game apiece.

"I think they just gave me more attention, more so than it was just one guy," Lillard told reporters. "I'm never going against one guy."

Denver built a 12-point halftime lead despite the six-time All-Star's best efforts to keep Portland in the game, including eight threes in the first 24 minutes.

"Dame was going crazy in the first half. It almost looked like we didn't have an answer for him," Gordon said. "I looked at the coaching staff and said, 'I got him.'"

Between Gordon's efforts to help slow down Lillard and a terrific team-wide performance offensively, highlighted by shooting 53.5 percent from the field, the Nuggets bounced back in a major way after dropping Game 1 by a 123-109 score Saturday.

"That's one of the reasons we brought AG here—that defensive versatility," Denver head coach Michael Malone said. "Obviously, he embraced it. He wanted it."

Gordon was acquired in a March trade with the Orlando Magic, where he'd spent the first six-plus years of his NBA career.

Although his offensive role decreased both in terms of scoring (14.6 PPG to 10.2) and shot attempts (11.7 to 8.2), he's developed into a crucial cog for the Nuggets defensively.

The 25-year-old University of Arizona product finished the regular season eighth among all power forwards in ESPN's defensive real plus-minus, and his ability to guard pretty much any position only adds to that value.

Looking ahead, slowing down Lillard is the single biggest key to the Nuggets winning the series, so Gordon's success Monday means he'll likely see plenty more assignments on the Blazers' standout point guard.

Game 3 is scheduled for Thursday at 10:30 p.m. ET on NBA TV.