Grading the Week: Nuggets’ Aaron Gordon showed something over final three games vs. Warriors

Almost always, it’s not how you fail. It’s how you respond to failure.

Aaron Gordon experienced plenty at the start of the Nuggets’ opening-round playoff series against Golden State when he appeared lost, indecisive and in over his own head.

Coming on the heels of a series of no-shows in last spring’s four-game playoff sweep at the hands of the Phoenix Suns, Gordon’s back-to-back stink bombs in the Bay Area could’ve easily cascaded into an ugly offseason storyline had they continued.

Aaron Gordon — B

Instead, the Nuggets forward took full responsibility for his shortcomings and proceeded to play with conviction in the final three games of an eventual 4-1 series loss.

Perhaps best of all, when he returned to the scene of his Game 1 and 2 duds, he played exactly the sort of high-energy, attacking brand of basketball that should serve as a model for him going forward.

Sure, he completely mishandled a beautiful no-look pass from Nikola Jokic in the closing minutes of an eventual season-ending 102-98 loss Wednesday night. But that was one bad moment in an otherwise admirable effort that also saw him hound Golden State guard Steph Curry for extended stretches.

Gordon’s per-game averages over the final three games of the series: 18.0 points, 8.7 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.7 blocks. While his 3-point shooting stroke never returned, just about everything else did.

And now we know two things about Gordon after the end of this season:

No. 1: Gordon is poorly cast as the No. 2 option on a team with NBA title aspirations.

No. 2. When the bright light of postseason failure finds him, he has the wherewithal to respond.

While the latter might seem like a small victory in a season full of them for the Nuggets, it could mean a whole lot more when the former is no longer thrust upon them.

Brendan Rodgers — F

We’re now past the point of calling Brendan Rodgers’ major-league struggles a slump.

It says something that Rockies third baseman Ryan McMahon had as many errors over four games in Philadelphia (4) as Rodgers has had hits three weeks into the regular season (4 for 51 entering Friday’s game).

The Rockies’ second baseman’s batting average (.078) is so far below the Mendoza Line he needs a set of scuba gear (and eight consecutive hits) just to get back above water.

It could be something is wrong with Rodgers physically. He alluded to back issues affecting his swing Friday. Maybe there are problems mentally or emotionally as well. Whatever the case may be, it sure doesn’t look like he’s going to solve any of it with the big league club, given that his last hit came April 18.

A reboot down in Triple-A Albuquerque may be the last resort, but it’s likely the only option left.

Peyton Manning — A+

As if we didn’t know it already, former Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning reminded everyone this week why he’s so beloved in the Centennial State.

In creating the Demaryius A. Thomas Scholarship Endowment — an academic scholarship for incoming Georgia Tech freshmen from Thomas’ home area in Georgia — Manning and his wife, Ashley, found a way to honor a fallen teammate in one of the best ways possible.

Even as another quarterback takes the spotlight in Broncos Country, Manning showed once again why he will always have our hearts.

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