Durant-Gordon matchup highlights Warriors-Magic game (Jan 22, 2017)
The moment it happened was still kind of shocking. Here was an All-Star driving into the lane and losing the ball, losing the ball at the hands of a nondescript, little-known defender. These are not run-of-the-mill players. These are the best the league has to offer.
And to do so against a relatively nondescript team such as the Orlando Magic and a young, up-and-coming player like Aaron Gordon is still surprising.
The league is still getting to know this 21-year-old who wowed the basketball world with his athleticism in last year's All-Star dunk contest. And quickly, for those who watch enough, they are beginning to see him put that athleticism and talent to work on the defensive end against some of the league's best perimeter players.
The next challenge? All-Star Kevin Durant and the Golden State Warriors, who come to town for a Sunday afternoon matinee.
That is a challenge Gordon is looking forward to as he expects to be the one guarding the former league MVP throughout the game.
"It's going to be fun. It's going to be a lot of fun," Gordon said. "It's still a five-man defensive scheme. There is going to be a lot of switching going on. I'm very trusting in my team that we are going to get the job done."
According to NBA.com's stats database, Gordon is stellar defensively. Opponents are shooting 40.8 percent on field goal attempts he defends, nearly four percentage points lower than the league average.
Observationally, Gordon turned in some monster performances. That includes frustrating Giannis Antetokounmpo into 17 points on 6-for-17 shooting before fouling out with 4 1/2 minutes to play on a charge drawn by Gordon in Friday's Magic victory.
Durant though presents a new challenge. As does the entire Warriors team.
Durant is beginning to find his rhythm and footing, averaging 28 points per game while shooting 57.8 percent from the floor and 41.5 percent from beyond the arc in his last nine games.
But the Warriors have pushed themselves to the top of the league once again thanks to their defense. Golden State is first in the league in defensive rating, giving up 101.1 points per 100 possessions.
They used that defense to rout the offensively minded Houston Rockets 125-108 on Friday. The 3-point happy Rockets shot only 7 for 35 , leading to the loss.
"We have to defend like that," coach Steve Kerr told the San Francisco Chronicle after the game. "That's what we have to hang our hat on. Because if we can get stops, then we can get out and run. We're pretty tough to stop in transition."
The Warriors' defense puts even further pressure on offenses to perform at a high level and keep the Warriors' offensive weapons from getting out in transition. Their own defense is a tool that makes life harder for their opponents in seemingly every game. It is all part of the challenge of battling the Warriors.
Durant is known for his gaudy scoring numbers, but is no slouch defensively. Similar to Gordon, opponents are shooting 40.9 percent on field goals against him, a 4.5 percentage-point difference from the league average.