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New-look Nuggets flash their huge potential in first game with Aaron Gordon

Matt Eppers, USA TODAY
·4 min read
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Aaron Gordon was needed for just 21 minutes Sunday in his Denver Nuggets debut. In those 21 minutes, the new-look Nuggets showed how potent they can be.

Gordon, acquired from the Orlando Magic at the trade deadline Thursday, scored 13 points on 6-of-9 shooting as the Nuggets rolled to a 126-102 win over the Atlanta Hawks. Denver shot 54.3% from the field and 41.7% from 3-point range (15-of-36) and had six players score in double figures.

Atlanta led by four after the first quarter. Denver dominated the rest of the way to win for the 11th time in the last 14 games and improve to 28-18.

NBA ESSENTIALS: SCORES | SCHEDULE | STANDINGS

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"I see no limits for this team," Gordon said. "It looks like we have all the pieces for this team, we have depth. We're covered in a lot of different spots. As long as we're working together there's no stopping us."

Gordon slid into the starting lineup at power forward next to Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, Michael Porter Jr. and Will Barton. Gordon scored 11 points in the first half, including seven in the second quarter as the Nuggets shook of a sluggish start to take a 10-point lead into the break.

Denver took control in the third quarter, and Gordon was able to watch the entire fourth from the bench

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With Gordon on the floor, the Nuggets had an offensive rating of 139 and a defensive rating of 95.2. It's a small sample size of course, but for comparison's sake, the Brooklyn Nets lead the NBA in offensive rating this season at 117.4. The Los Angeles Lakers have the best defensive rating at 105.8 (a lower defensive rating is better).

"There's not a lot of guys that can do what Aaron Gordon does," Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. "What Aaron brings to the table is that defensive versatility. ... That's the way the league is going, positional versatility on both ends of the floor."

The Nuggets acquired Gordon to bolster their frontcourt for the stretch run and playoffs. After reaching the Western Conference finals last season, Denver has designs on breaking through to the NBA Finals. The returns after one game with their revamped roster are very encouraging.

"He knows why he came here. He knows what he can do. He knows how he can help and he's doing that," Jokic said. "He's embraced it. He saw how we play. If he's open the ball's going to find him."

Aaron Gordon scored 13 points in 21 minutes in his Nuggets debut.
Aaron Gordon scored 13 points in 21 minutes in his Nuggets debut.

Here are four more things to know Monday in the NBA:

Tip-off confusion

Being traded can be a whirlwind situation for NBA players that can lead to confusion, especially against a former team. Norm Powell showed just how confusing it can be when his first game with the Portland Trail Blazers came against his former Toronto Raptors teammates. Powell took the floor for the opening tip-off and initially lined up next to the Raptors on the wrong side of the court.

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Nets availability

The Brooklyn Nets will have to wait a bit longer before their Big 3 is back on the floor together. Kyrie Irving will return Monday against the Minnesota Timberwolves, but Kevin Durant will likely remain out this week. Irving missed the Nets' recent three-game road trip to attend to a family matter. Durant has been sidelined since Feb. 13 with a strained hamstring. Nets coach Steve Nash said Sunday that Durant "looks great" during his rehab, but couldn't offer any additional details about his timeline.

On the buyout market

After Thursday's trade deadline passed, contenders moved quickly over the weekend to secure the biggest names on the buyout market. The Brooklyn Nets reached a deal Saturday with veteran forward LaMarcus Aldridge. The Los Angeles Lakers then agreed Sunday with center Andre Drummond. With two top names signed, available free agents are currently limited (Austin Rivers was let go by the Oklahoma City Thunder), but more potential targets could be bought out in the coming days, including Jeff Teague, Otto Porter Jr., Hassan Whiteside and Avery Bradley.

Game of the night: Bucks at Clippers

Milwaukee has lost two straight and opens an 11-day, six-game road trip Monday in Los Angeles. The Bucks could be shorthanded for the showdown after four starters sat out Saturday with injuries: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, Jrue Holiday and Donte DiVincenzo. The Clippers have won five in a row and look to build on the streak from the comforts of home. Monday's game is the second of nine straight at Staples Center for the Clippers.

Follow Matt Eppers on Twitter @meppers_.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Watch out Lakers? Aaron Gordon, new-look Nuggets show big potential