In the first half of Game 2, few records looked out of reach for Portland Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard. Everything from Michael Jordan’s single-game postseason scoring record (63) to Klay Thompson’s historic 3-point binge (11 triples) appeared attainable. That is, until the Nuggets opened the second half with a new wrinkle.
In the second half, forward Aaron Gordon was tasked with picking up Lillard on the defensive end. Lillard finished with 42 points, but only 10 came after halftime. In a piece from ESPN’s Royce Young, the Blazers guard explained how Portland planned to respond to the shift.
“I expect it to continue,” Lillard said. “Just moving around more off the ball, getting more off-ball sets. Usually bigger guys can use their length and athleticism on the ball, but when you start to move around on flares and pindowns and things like that, typically you can get a little bit of space.”
The postseason, by nature, is a battle of adjustments and reactions. And after Lillard worked his way into eight 3-pointers in the first half, the pressure was on for Denver to make a chess move.
Lillard noted that the Nuggets seldom used just one singular guy to defend him, a development Denver pondered prior to Monday night.
“Going into Game 2, we met this morning and we talked as a staff, ‘Let’s give him different looks.’ [Facundo Campazzo], he brings something different to the table; he’s smaller, but he’s into you. Austin Rivers brings more size,” Malone said. “But 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.”
The entire story can be found here. Young also discusses how the physicality of Game 2 played a primary role and the promising duel between the game’s two superstars, among much else.