Playoffs 2021

NBA Playoffs 2021: How Aaron Gordon's defensive versatility proved to be the key to stopping Damian Lillard

The first half of Game 2 looked like another Damian Lillard masterpiece as the Portland Trail Blazers point guard activated Dame Time from the jump.

Lillard turned in a scorching performance, tying an NBA playoff record with eight 3-pointers in the opening 24 minutes, exploding for 22 of his 32 first-half points in the second quarter alone.

Then came the second half. Enter Aaron Gordon.

After Austin Rivers and Facundo Campazzo had their hands full trying to contain Lillard, Gordon requested the defensive assignment.

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

TAKEAWAYS: Jokic powers Nuggets to bounceback Game 2 win to level series

The 6-foot-8 forward's length bothered Lillard as he forced him into a series of tough shots, with Gordon quick enough to hang with the livewire guard on the perimeter and get a hand in his face.

Lillard made just 1-of-5 from the 3-point line in the second half and just 2-of-9 overall, scoring just 10 points over the final two quarters, which allowed the Nuggets to run away with the game, 128-109 and level up the series at 1-1.

Lillard's second-half shot chart:

"To hold him to 10 points in the second half and only one made 3 was critical to us getting that win," Nuggets head coach Michael Malone said.

"At halftime, after the 32-point first half, we said, 'You know what, let's throw Aaron Gordon on him.' That's one of the reasons we brought AG here is that defensive versatility. And obviously, he embraced it, he wanted it. That's the best part about it, this is something Aaron Gordon has been wanting to do."

With Lillard held in check, Norman Powell, CJ McCollum, and Carmelo Anthony only managed to combine for 22 points in the second half, while Jusuf Nurkic's night ended early after picking up his sixth foul early in the fourth quarter.

As the series heads back to Portland for Game 3 and 4, while Lillard is liable to put up a ton of points on any given night, Gordon has emerged as the Nuggets' best option defensively to make him earn his buckets.

"I love those matchups. I don't care what the matchup is. It could be a 'one,' a point guard, it could be a center," Gordon added. "I'm here for it all."

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