Eric Gordon's doing what Eric Gordon's always done, just for a better team

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eric_gordon_team_usa2.jpgEric Gordon has played quite well as a member of Team USA. Even though he hasn’t been all that consistent (but then again, Durant notwithstanding, who has?), Gordon has been the Americans’ most prolific three-point shooter in the World Championships thus far. He shoots the international three with ease, and with so much attention being paid to Team USA’s creators on the perimeter, Gordon’s shooting savvy has helped him feast on the weak side.

While Gordon was considered by many to be a curious selection on the Team USA roster, this is who he is. Gordon isn’t stepping up. He’s not busting out. He’s playing the same way that he plays in every game of the Los Angeles Clippers’ season, but with the benefit of better teammates.

Gordon’s points per 36 minutes are up a few ticks in the World Championships (from 16.9 in the NBA last season to 20.0 at FIBA this summer), but the discrepancy is easily accounted for. Gordon has seen his shot attempts go up on a per-minute basis, and with Team USA’s frequent opportunities in transition, it’s no wonder that Gordon has been a touch more productive and efficient from the floor.

In terms of skill and production, this isn’t some radically improved Gordon than the one we’ve seen play for the Clippers over the last two season. He’s a physical — if undersized — defender, a three-point threat, and an all-around efficient scorer.

In fact, one could even argue that Team USA hasn’t had the benefit of a fully empowered Gordon. One of the stronger aspects of his NBA game has been suppressed by his role with Team USA: drawing fouls. Gordon isn’t strictly a jump-shooter. He’s able to create contact off the dribble, and had he played a full season last year, the frequency of his free throw attempts would put him just outside the top 20 in that measure. That statistical distinction is otherwise reserved for stars, quasi-stars, and Corey Maggette, which puts Gordon in rather superb offensive company.

With Team USA though, asking Gordon to create off the dribble (even if he’s capable of drawing fouls at a decent rate) doesn’t make all that much sense. The squad is already overflowing with ball-handlers, most of which lack Gordon’s ability to spot-up on the perimeter. That makes Gordon’s role a bit clear-cut, even if he’s a more versatile offensive player than his FIBA performance suggests.

The only jump Gordon has made this summer is in exposure. The Clippers don’t traditionally get much media burn, and their NBA irrelevance over the last two seasons has cast Gordon in the background. He’s still somewhat undervalued on Team USA — even in spite of performances like his 21-point, three-steal outing against Tunisia today — but a national audience is finally learning to appreciate Gordon for all of his basketball talents. It’s about time.

Zach LaVine edges Aaron Gordon in epic, insane Dunk Contest

Minnesota Timberwolves Zach LaVine slam dunks the ball during the NBA all-star skills competition in Toronto on Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016. (Mark Blinch/The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
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TORONTO — That. Was. Amazing.

In a dunk contest that will go down with the all-time greats — Jordan vs. Dominique, Dr. J from the free throw line — Minnesota’s Zach LaVine defended his dunk contest title. Barely. Because Orlando’s Aaron Gordon was doing dunks nobody had ever seen before.

And LaVine was bringing it just as hard.

The two men advanced to the finals — dismissing Will Barton and Andre Drummond, each of whom had good dunks — and that was when it got wild.

There were four second-round dunks, and four perfect scores of 50. (That was in spite of Shaq, who wanted to give nines for second attempts.)

The Air Canada Centre crowd was exploding with every dunk. The two men went to a dunk-off — and got two more 50s.

So they went to a second-round of overtime, where LaVine put up another 50 and won the contest.

Gordon was close to perfect. Zach LaVine can flat-out fly.

Magic’s Aaron Gordon with the over-the-mascot mad dunk

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TORONTO — Aaron Gordon was giving Zach LaVine all he could handle in the Dunk Contest.

He blew the lid off the Air Canada Centre with this dunk in the first round — and it wasn’t even his best dunk of the night. Never seen this before.

This dunk contest was awesome, so much more video to come.

Zach LaVine opens Slam Dunk Contest title defense with spectacular behind-the-back slam (VIDEO)

during the BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge 2016 at Air Canada Centre on February 12, 2016 in Toronto, Canada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.
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TORONTO — Zach LaVine clearly heard all the talk that Aaron Gordon or Will Barton had a chance to upset him in the Slam Dunk Contest. He came out ready to prove his superiority right off the bat. This behind-the-back slam was his first attempt of the night:

Even better was the reaction, both from Andre Drummond and from LaVine’s Minnesota teammates:

Splash Brothers showtime: Klay Thompson beats Stephen Curry to win Three-Point Contest

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TORONTO — It came down to the Splash Brothers. Because of course it did. Just like last season.

In the final round of the NBA All-Star Saturday Three-Point Shootout, defending champ Stephen Curry hit his first eight shots and set the bar high with 23 points — the best score of the night.

His backcourt teammate Klay Thompson responded by draining his last seven shots, which included the entire money rack, and put up 27 points — tying the event record.

That gave Thompson the upset win and the Three-Point Contest title.

Although, is it an upset if the second best shooter in the game beats the best?

“It was like déjà vu last year,” Thompson said. “Not gonna lie, I got nervous when he hit his first eight, and I didn’t think he was going to miss. But it was exciting, just coming back to Oakland [with the title], you know. Back-to-back years for Splash Brothers, it’s pretty cool.”

So does Thompson have bragging rights?

“(For) about 364 days, and then — but that’s a daily thing we do,” Thompson said. “We love to shoot against each other. You know, I’ve never been on a team with someone who shoots it better than me, so it’s a privilege to work with him every day. He makes me that much better.”

The Final round was two you expected — the Splash Brothers — plus one few did, Suns rookie Devin Booker.

Getting there was not simple. In the first round, Thompson set a high bar going first and putting up 22. Curry got hot in the middle, then hit the last two money balls to reach 21. James Harden and J.J. Redick ( who stayed behind the line this year) scored very solid 20s. Later 19-year-old rookie Booker put up a 20 to tie those two veterans. Milwaukee’s Khris Middleton (13 points) Portland’s C.J. McCollum (14) and home-town crowd favorite Raptor Kyle Lowry (15) got bounced. .

That left Harden, Redick, and McCollum in a tiebreaker, and the rookie calmly put up a 12 in 30 seconds to advance.

Booker took a step back in the final round with a 16.

Not that it mattered with the Splash Brothers in the building.