Aaron Gordon Scores 13 in Debut, Helps Nuggets Rout Trae Young, Hawks

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistMarch 29, 2021

Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young (11) drives past Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray (27) during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game in Denver, Sunday, March 28, 2021. (AP Photo/Joe Mahoney)
Joe Mahoney/Associated Press

The Aaron Gordon era in the Mile High City is off to a rousing start, as the Denver Nuggets beat the Atlanta Hawks 126-102 Sunday at home at Ball Arena.

Gordon made his first appearance for the Nuggets following his arrival ahead of the NBA's trade deadline. He started and played 21 minutes in the victory. JaVale McGee, the team's other notable addition, didn't see the floor.

Denver took control in the second quarter as it closed the first half on a 20-6 run to jump ahead 65-55.

All five Nuggets starters scored in double figures as they boasted a balanced offensive attack. Along with a solid showing from Gordon, Nikola Jokic and Michael Porter Jr. finished with double-doubles.


Notable Performers

Aaron Gordon, PF, Nuggets: 13 points (6-9 FG, 1-4 3PT), two rebounds, one assist, one steal

Nikola Jokic, C, Nuggets: 16 points (7-12 FG, 1-2 3PT), 10 rebounds, eight assists, two blocks, one steal

Michael Porter Jr., SF, Nuggets: 15 points (6-12 FG, 2-5 3PT), 10 rebounds, three assists

Trae Young, PG, Hawks: 21 points (8-14 FG, 3-7 3PT), seven assists, five rebounds, two steals


Gordon Makes Solid 1st Impression

All eyes were on Gordon, who was one of the biggest names to move as time ticked down before the deadline passed.

The Los Angeles Lakers are without LeBron James and Anthony Davis, and the Los Angeles Clippers' inconsistency raises some alarm bells. By adding Gordon, Denver might be able to match or improve upon last year's trip to the Western Conference Finals.

The early returns are encouraging as Gordon made his presence felt.

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

Aaron Gordon gets his first bucket as a Nugget ✔️ https://t.co/7bCULAqpp4


Aaron Gordon (11 PTS, 5-7 FGM) scoring on and off-ball in his @nuggets debut! DEN leads at the half on @NBATV https://t.co/aY45BME8XB

One lingering question is how the 25-year-old fits in a frontcourt with Porter. The young forward has taken big strides in his second season and is already shaping up to be a better scorer than Gordon, who might have to assume a more complementary role than he occupied with the Orlando Magic.

If Sunday night was any indication, it won't be a problem.

Denver Nuggets @nuggets

STOP IT @Double0AG 🤯 https://t.co/JeRZEnZz9w

The Hawks entered the game 19th in defensive rating (111.9), per NBA.com, so they were a good opponent for the Nuggets to roll out Gordon against.

While one win doesn't vault Denver to the top of the West, fans have to be happy with how Gordon performed while having had little time to build a rapport with his new teammates.


Hawks Overwhelmed Inside

If you want to know why the Hawks lost this game, then look no further than the rebounding numbers and points in the paint. Denver had a 49-31 edge on the boards and outscored Atlanta 50-32 inside.

JaMychal Green was feasting against the Hawks defense, which helped him finish with a season-high 20 points.

Brad Rowland @BTRowland

Hawks down 10 at the half and Denver scored almost 1.4 points per possession. ATL was good on offense, but tough to overcome the lack of resistance on the other end.

Chris Kirschner @ChrisKirschner

Not the greatest night for Clint Capela

Trae Young at least delivered some highlights for Atlanta and carried the starting lineup offensively.


Trae showing off the range early 🔥 https://t.co/9Bti74CDGM

Atlanta Hawks @ATLHawks

Get us going, Trae. https://t.co/DpnEURmXge

Atlanta Hawks @ATLHawks

Trae ↗️ Clint https://t.co/593CPTqYN7

As a collective, the Hawks were pretty efficient. Atlanta shot 47.4 percent from the field and went 12-of-34 from beyond the arc.

The team's porous defense was too much to overcome, though, and allowing an opposing team to collect 15 offensive rebounds is usually a recipe for disaster.


What's Next?

The Nuggets host the Philadelphia 76ers on Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET. Atlanta's eight-game road trip continues as the Hawks play the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday at 10 p.m. ET.