Aaron Gordon Looking Forward to Matchup with Kristaps Porzingis
By John Denton
Nov. 8, 2017
ORLANDO – An early candidate for the NBA’s Most Improved Player award, Aaron Gordon will be facing what is likely his biggest competition for the honor tonight when his Orlando Magic host the New York Knicks at 7 p.m.
Pun completely intended, it will be a tall task for Gordon going against the 7-foot-3 Kristaps Porzingis, who is arguably the NBA’s hottest shooter.
Porzingis scored 17 of his 28 points in the fourth quarter on Tuesday night in New York to help the Knicks (6-4) rally past the Charlotte Hornets. Finally free of having to play second option to Carmelo Anthony, Porzingis ranks second in the league in scoring (30.2 points per game) and he has a NBA-best seven 30-point games.
Gordon, Orlando’s most versatile and tough-minded defender, is used to such challenges as he’s often assigned to guard the best scorer on the opposing team. This time, however, the 6-foot-9 Gordon will have his work cut out trying to check a big man who is 6 inches taller than him.
``He’s a tough matchup for sure,’’ Gordon said. ``He’s so tall and can shoot the ball very well. (He’s) mobile, athletic. He’s a very good player, and he’s doing what New York needs him to do. I’m just going to go out there and make it difficult for him, take him out of his comfort zone, crowd him be athletic, run him up and down the court.’’
Orlando (6-4) wants to get back to the running, 3-point shooting style that helped it get out to one of the hottest starts in the NBA. The Magic were once 6-2 and averaging 114.9 points per game while shooting 48.9 percent from the floor and 44.1 percent from the 3-point line. Those numbers were with point guards Elfrid Payton and D.J. Augustin on the floor and both missed the last two games with strained left hamstrings. Without them pushing the pace and organizing the offense, Orlando mustered just 85.5 points, 38.4 percent shooting and 25 percent accuracy from 3-point range in losses to Chicago and Boston.
``We started opening night of preaching that message (of keeping an even keel), but it’s OK for our guys to get a little mad when we lose and we don’t want an even keel after losses,’’ joked Magic head coach Frank Vogel. ``But we do want to stick to the process of getting better every day and understand what’s working for us. The season is going to bring about change and we’re going to have to win games different ways. When you start doing something well, teams take that away from you and you’ve got to make the next move.’’
The Magic are hopeful that the next move for them is re-inserting Payton back into the starting lineup, but that is still very much an uncertainty because the point guard still experiencing mild pain in his left leg. He practiced on Saturday, but couldn’t play on Sunday and then went through workouts on Monday and Tuesday, but still experienced discomfort in his leg. His status tonight won’t be firmed up until closer to tipoff.
``We’ll see how he feels before the game,’’ Vogel said. ``We kept him out of shootaround and we’ll let him try it tonight and hopefully he feels good when he loosens up.’’
The Magic are hopeful that Gordon can get it rolling like he had it early in the season. He scored a career-best 41 points against Brooklyn on Oct. 24 and he’s twice made go-ahead 3-pointers that led the Magic to victories. After averaging 12.7 points per game last season, Gordon has scored in double figures in each of his eight games this season and he’s giving Orlando 19.1 points, 8.9 rebounds and 2.3 assists a game – all of which would be career-best numbers.
The Knicks and Magic sport the same records, but they have arrived at this point in drastically different manners. Whereas Orlando started strong and slumped of late, New York opened 0-2 and has since won six of seven games. In their last two games, the Knicks have put on big fourth-quarter rallies – holding a 71-36 advantage – to defeat Indiana and Charlotte.
Porzingis personally outscored Indiana 24-17 over the final 13:30 of Sunday’s game and he teamed with Doug McDermott to pump in 27 fourth-quarter points in Tuesday’s big rally past the Hornets. Orlando is well aware that it must try and disrupt the rhythm of one of the NBA’s hottest shooting players.
``It’s a nightmare trying to figure out a game plan how to stop him when he’s shooting the ball from 10 feet above everybody else’s head, whether it’s in the post or at the 3-point line,’’ Vogel said. ``Just a remarkable talent and one of the most unique guys in the league to try to game-plan for. We’ve just got to try to do our best.’’
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.