Gordon's Versatility on Display During Magic's Win Over Pistons

by John Denton

DETROIT – An absolute matchup nightmare because of his combination of strength and length and quickness and toughness, Orlando Magic forward Aaron Gordon stayed in attack mode on Monday regardless of the defender the Detroit Pistons put on him.

When smallish forward Luke Kennard drew the matchup, the bigger and more athletic Gordon simply raised up and drilled short jumpers. When the Pistons tried putting 6-foot-11, 279-pound center Andre Drummond on him, Gordon put on the afterburners and drove to the rim. And with Markieff Morris on Gordon early in the third period, he bolted behind him for a cut that led to another of his many dunks.

In fact, Gordon authored one of the best highlights of the night in the final seconds of the first half when he isolated Drummond on the right wing, blew by him off the dribble and dunked with ease.

Continuing to show off his blossoming offensive arsenal, Gordon scored 19 of his 25 points in the first half and the Magic played well throughout on the defensive end in a 115-91 romp past the Pistons.

``I’m just continuing to try and make the right play, for myself and my teammates, and make sure everybody eats and we win,’’ Gordon said. ``I’m just using mismatches because this is when we will build confidence in each other. And I just want to make the right play every time.’’

On a sleepy Monday night in downtown Detroit with a sparse crowd of 7,411 on hand at Little Caesars Arena, Gordon stole the show with the wide array of shots that he hit throughout the game. He scored 13 of the Magic’s first 25 points and picked the Pistons’ defense apart by making eight of his first 13 shots. He finished 10 of 17 from the floor with eight rebounds and three 3-pointers.

``He did a good job and he was good defensively and on both ends of the floor,’’ Magic coach Steve Clifford raved. ``He scored a lot of different ways tonight and he played a really all-around game.’’

Orlando (2-0) followed up Saturday’s rout of San Antonio with another strong effort against Detroit (0-1). The Magic also got stellar performances once again from forward Jonathan Isaac (16 points, seven rebounds and two steals), guard Markelle Fultz (eight points and seven assists) and center Mo Bamba (13 points, eight rebounds and three 3-pointers) in the resounding defeat of the Pistons.

One light-hearted moment came in the third quarter when Bamba swatted a Christian Wood shot with such force that the ball caromed off of Isaac’s head.

Orlando never trailed in the game, leading by as much as 14 in the first quarter, by as much as 18 through the first three periods and by 24 in the fourth period.

Fultz, who is fully healthy after missing most of the past two seasons with thoracic outlet syndrome in his right shoulder, had a couple of spectacular highlights in the second half. After ripping the ball away Detroit’s Wood, Fultz wrapped the dribble around his back and chucked away Tim Frazier before elevating for a thunderous one-handed dunk.

Later, Fultz beat Frazier along the baseline and floated under the rim before flipping in a reverse layup off the glass. In the game, he made four of 10 shots, missed his one attempt from 3-point range and turned the ball over four times.

``Man, it just feels great to be out there and having fun with the game again,’’ said Fultz, who has 14 points, 11 assists and three steals in two preseason games. ``Being able to go out there and play freely through our system and having fun playing the game, it’s just stuff that I work on in the summer. It just shows.’’

Magic center Nikola Vucevic fouled out of the game late in the third period after battling with Drummond in the paint. A frustrated Vucevic finished with 10 points, 10 rebounds and two assists in 21 minutes of action.

The only other negative of the night came when Magic super sub, Terrence Ross, was hit in the chest in the first half and didn’t return for action in the second half. Ross, who had nine points in eight minutes, will be evaluated further on Tuesday.

Detroit, which finished a spot behind the seventh-seeded Magic in the Eastern Conference standings last season, got 14 points and nine rebounds from Drummond. Star forward Blake Griffin played 14 minutes and scored three points while also handing out five assists.

The Magic opened the preseason on Saturday in San Antonio and whipped the Spurs 125-89. Orlando’s road portion of the exhibition season concludes on Wednesday when it plays the Hawks in Atlanta.

The Magic will make their Amway Center debut on Friday when they host the new-look Boston Celtics. Orlando will also host the Philadelphia 76ers (Sunday) and the rival Miami Heat (Oct. 17) before opening the regular season at the Amway Center for a fifth straight season – this time against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Oct. 23.

``It is preseason, but we’re trying to get things together and it definitely foreshadows us being a great defensive team with what we’ve done in the preseason,’’ said Isaac of a Magic defense that forced 20 turnovers and limited the Pistons to 33.7 percent shooting. ``We’re obviously only going to get better, and it will only go up from here. The more we fine-tune things … there will only be an increase in productivity in the regular season.’’

Orlando led 57-48 at intermission thanks to Gordon’s scoring onslaught and strong play once again from Bamba and Fultz. Gordon had 13 first-quarter points and another six in the second period, capped by the dunk after driving by Drummond late in the first half.

Said Gordon: ``There’s still a couple of things that I need to tighten up for my team to be lifted, but now’s the time (to work on that). It’s just about me making a read – if (the defender) is too far off, you shoot it and if he’s up, go by.’’

Fultz’s only basket of the first half was a thing of beauty as he drove hard into the lane and stopped after spinning to free himself from a defender. From there, he drilled a short jump shot. He spent the rest of the half playing the role of distributor, handing out six assists off his drives into the lane.

``I think (his dribble penetration) is a big thing in my game,’’ Fultz said. ``One of my favorite things to do is trying to be a playmaker, drawing two defenders and getting my teammates easy shots any time that I can. My ability to get to the rim just creates space and helps the team.’’

Bamba, who was battling general soreness coming into the game, picked up where he left off in Saturday’s opener in San Antonio when he scored a game-high 18 points. On Monday, he had 10 first-half points while drilling two 3-pointers.

``He shot the ball really well. He was hurting a little bit, but I thought he did a good job,’’ Clifford said of the second-year center, who was limited to just 47 games as a rookie because of a stress reaction in his left leg. ``He’s finding – which is a big part of him playing to his strengths – he’s finding open areas to get his jumper off. To me, he’s spreading the defense out, he’s shooting the ball well, he’s a very good shooter and that’s going to be a big part of his game.’’

Note: The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Orlando Magic. All opinions expressed by John Denton are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Orlando Magic or their Basketball Operations staff, partners or sponsors.

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