The Slam Dunk Contest ended more than a week ago, but clearly, nobody has told Orlando Magic skywalker Aaron Gordon or his table-setting pal Elfrid Payton:
… and, clearly, nobody should. With the left, y’all.
While Gordon’s third-quarter flush popped eyes and dropped jaws, it wasn’t his only big-time finish of Tuesday’s tilt with the Philadelphia 76ers. He’d also made his presence felt earlier on, starting the break with defensive effort and finishing it on the other end with authority:
Gordon continued to impress with his athleticism and stat-stuffing game, finishing with 11 points, 11 rebounds, three assists, three steals and a block in 30 minutes of work in Orlando’s 124-115 win over the 76ers. Center Nikola Vucevic led the way with 35 points, nine rebounds and four assists for the Magic, who took care of business in what coach Scott Skiles had called a “must-win” game for their playoff hopes to improve to to 25-30, drawing them within four games of the Chicago Bulls for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Gordon, who exploded onto the national stage with his duel against Minnesota Timberwolves guard Zach LaVine during the highlight of All-Star Weekend in Toronto, has taken on a larger role for Orlando since coach Scott Skiles inserted him into the starting lineup last month. He’s nearly averaging a double-double — 9.6 points, 10.2 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.2 steals in 29.8 minutes per game — since entering the starting five.
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The warts on the 20-year-old power forward’s game are plain to see; he’s shooting just 40.7 percent from the field, 28.9 percent on 2-pointers taken outside the restricted area and 24.1 percent from 3-point range, since his elevation into the starting lineup. Still, his energy, athleticism and defensive activity can still make him a difference-maker for a Magic club that recently traded away versatile young forward Tobias Harris in part due to its belief that Gordon should get more opportunities.
Whether Gordon will improve the touch on his jumper and help propel the Magic into the postseason remains to be seen, but based on what we’ve seen thus far, it seems like a pretty good idea to tell Aaron Gordon to spread his wings; he’s special in the air.
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