Aaron Gordon will see some familiar faces when the Denver Nuggets host the Orlando Magic on Sunday night.
The Nuggets acquired Gordon from the Magic at the trade deadline on March 25 after he spent 6 1/2 seasons in Orlando.
Denver has won its first three games with Gordon on the court, four straight overall and 13 of 16. The 25-year-old forward had a solid all-around performance with 14 points, six rebounds, six assists and three steals in Thursday’s 101-94 road win over the Los Angeles Clippers.
“I tell him all the time he was the difference-maker,” Nuggets swingman Will Barton said of Gordon’s acquisition. “I think he put us over the hump.”
Gordon recorded 79 double-doubles in 428 games with Orlando but never fulfilled the promise of being the fourth overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft.
He averaged 14.6 points and 6.6 rebounds in 25 games this season for the Magic, but things were beginning to sour. He expressed frustration with the organization and requested a trade, and the Magic obliged with the deadline deal that included the Nuggets shipping guard Gary Harris to the Magic.
The best part of being in Denver for Gordon is the difference in standards. The Magic also shipped out center Nikola Vucevic and guard Evan Fournier at the deadline, while the Nuggets are gearing up to make a title run.
“It feels great,” Gordon said of the change in scenery. “Being able to play in meaningful games just allows me to just go all out every night and expect nothing less than a win. That expectation and pressure is something I look forward to being a part of.”
Gordon is well aware of what happens when the Nuggets and Magic play — Denver usually wins.
The Nuggets have won the past nine meetings and 14 of the last 16. Denver built a 22-point halftime lead while posting a 110-99 win on March 23 in Orlando.
Gordon had 13 points, six assists and three rebounds in what turned out to be his next-to-last game with the Magic.
Orlando limps into Denver after being walloped 137-91 by the Utah Jazz on Saturday night.
The Magic had won their previous two games but were no match for red-hot Utah, which set an NBA record with 18 3-pointers in the first half en route to a 78-40 lead.
The Jazz finished 26 of 55 from 3-point range on a night in which Orlando made just 2 of 23.
The Magic had just eight players in uniform and figure to have the same number on Sunday.
“Eight guys had a lot to do with it,” Orlando coach Steve Clifford said of the season-worst setback. “Obviously, the travel wears you down, and they are playing as well as anybody in the NBA. We weren’t ready for that.”
R.J. Hampton, who had 12 points and eight rebounds in 31 minutes against the Jazz, was one of the players the Magic received in the Gordon trade.
He said he is looking forward to playing against his former teammates.
“It will be really special,” Hampton said. “All those guys are my friends and took care of me when I was there. The key to beating a great team like that is to lock in defensively. … We need to lock in early tomorrow or something like this will happen again.”
Harris remains out with a groin injury that he suffered in mid-February while he was with the Nuggets.
–Field Level Media