DENVER, CO - MAY 24: Damian Lillard (0) of the Portland Trail Blazers passes as Aaron Gordon (50) and Nikola Jokic (15) of the Denver Nuggets defend during the third quarter at Ball Arena on Monday, May 24, 2021. (Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post)

The Nuggets were out of choices. Either contain Dame or face an 0-2 deficit against a No. 6 seed.

Damian Lillard’s clock was away.

Rather than burning the nets and blowing up defenses during his signature quarter — the fourth largest — Portland’s superstar reached the transcendent country about two quarters also shortly Monday night.

Since Lillard bombed off, torching Denver’s patchwork band of guards directed by Facu Campazzo and Austin Rivers, the Nuggets could not sustain what had been a comfortable lead. An 18-point border pumped under Lillard’s 22-point second quarter, in which he sunk half of his eight first-half 3s.

“Dame was going mad in the first half,” forward Aaron Gordon said well after he and Shaq Harrison tamed Lillard and helped the Nuggets catch Game 2 overdue Monday, 128-109. “It appeared like we did not have no response for him.”

He pointed to two-way shield Shaq Harrison, who didn’t play in Game 1 apparently due to his offensive limitations.

The Nuggets were from options. Either contain Dame or confront an 0-2 deficit against a No. 6 seed.

“We always talk to our players about staying ready, and Shaq Harrison played about one minute, 15 seconds in that first half and had a massive impact,” Malone said .

“I looked in the training staff and explained,’I got him”’ Gordon said with the exact same steely confidence Lillard had once he pulled up from the Nuggets’ emblem.

“From the second half, they came out and said I was going to start on him for the very first possession,” Gordon explained. “It really was only going to be the first possession, and then… they were just like,’We will see how it goes.’ … I love those matchups, man. … I really don’t care what the matchup is… I’m here for all.”

After pouring in 32 points and eight 3-pointers at the first half, Gordon hounded Lillard and forced him work. The result? Lillard was only 2-of-9 with only one 3-pointer in more than 20 minutes in the second half.

“A taller man, more athletic. That is it. Only a larger body. I’m utilized to that. Normally, throughout the regular season… that’s who protects me”

The Nuggets liked how Campazzo remained in Lillard’s area, and realized Rivers’ size benefit. But confronted with a first-half flamethrower, the Nuggets chosen for dimension.

“That is one reason we introduced AG here,” Malone said. “That defensive versatility. He embraced it, he wanted it. That’s the best part about it. This is something which Aaron Gordon’s been wanting to do. And he simply made it hard. Listen, Damian Lillard is an incredible player. We found that in that first half. I believe Aaron’s size makes it a bit tougher to find those shots off.”

Gordon couldn’t quite explain his request to test among the NBA’s deadliest 3-point shooters, but his remarks Monday night echoed sentiments he professed at his introductory news conference.

“That’s my aggressive nature,” he said. “I know I am capable, and I want to make certain that the coaches understand that I’m a guardian. It’s my market. It doesn’t matter if it is a point guard, or even a center, like I said, place me , and I’ll make it difficult for them.”

The irony of Gordon’s matchup against Lillard was that both might’ve been mates had Orlando discovered a suitable bargain with Portland.

Gordon said the Blazers were”in the mix” for him in the trade deadline, and also earlier.

“I don’t know if it had been over the summertime or at the very beginning of the season, there were discussions,” Gordon explained. “I am happy where I am. I’m here for a reason. This is where I should be.”