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Eric Gordon is finding his groove as the Rockets’ sixth man

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Eric Gordon has made an early case for the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year award with the Houston Rockets, playing at a high level and scoring at an efficient rate to help take his team to another level during the 2016-17 NBA season.

So far, the 6-foot-4, 215-pound guard has lived up to the 4-year, $53 million deal that the Rockets gave him during the offseason; sparking the team throughout multiple contests with his consistent play as their sixth man off the bench. He’s been a fantastic complement to James Harden, giving him a consistent 2nd option; something he hasn’t had since joining the Rockets back in 2012. Even though Gordon has been injury prone throughout the majority of his 8-year NBA career, he’s found a way to stay healthy on this Rockets squad this season; playing in all 30 games so far on their way to the 3rd seed in the Western Conference.

In the Rockets’ rapid fire system, Gordon has settled in well – with his biggest contributions coming from the 3-point line. This season, Gordon currently leads the league in 3-point field goals made with 112; helping lead the Rockets to a league-high 441 3-pointers made, 75 more than the next closest team in the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Gordon’s tremendous shooting was on display on Wednesday night against the Phoenix Suns, helping the Rockets come away with a 125-111 victory. Coming off a rare shooting slump against the San Antonio Spurs the night before, Gordon would get right back on track; finishing with a solid 24 points in 28 minutes of action. The Suns’ defence got a good taste of Gordon’s red-hot jump shooting, with him converting on 7-13 (53.8%) from behind the 3-point line, to go along with only one basket inside the arc.

The Rockets would start and finish Wednesday’s contest with a flurry of baskets – scoring at least 30 points in every quarter. Led by Harden as their point guard, the Rockets were able to easily take care of the Suns by racking up 30 assists and spreading the floor with their exceptional 3-point shooting; knocking down 18-38 (47%) of their attempts beyond the arc.

Off the bench, Gordon would take advantage of his opportunities – utilizing ball screens and moving without the ball in coach Mike D’Antoni’s offence. It’s been his ability to find quick shots and help the Rockets’ ball movement around the perimeter that have made him such an integral part of their offence, with the Rockets favouring the 3-ball more than any other team in the league.

After missing his first 3 attempts from beyond the 3-point line on Wednesday night, Gordon quickly caught fire; knocking down his next 3 attempts. With the Suns trimming the Rockets’ lead to a single point in the dying minutes of the 2nd quarter, Gordon would step up when he was needed – drilling his 4th 3-point shot to build his team’s lead back up to 4 with 1:26 remaining in the quarter. The shot would stop the Suns’ momentum at the moment, but they’d make another surge in the 3rd quarter – giving Gordon another chance to convert on another big play. With 46 seconds left in the 3rd, Gordon would use a screen and drill his only basket inside the arc to push a 2-point lead to 4 in the late stages of the frame. The Suns would make one final push in the 4th, but Gordon was there once again to help the Rockets – drilling 3 more momentum killing 3-pointers to put the game to bed for his team.

Gordon has shown why guys like himself and Ryan Anderson were brought to Houston this offseason, with the Rockets using the 3-ball to deliver daggers against each and every team they’ve played this season. At the moment, Gordon is leading the Rockets in 3-point percentage by converting on 43.6 3P% of his attempts, while helping spread the floor for their superstar in Harden.

By Gordon coming off the bench and almost averaging a career-low 30.7 minutes a game, he’s been able to stay away from injuries and have the necessary rest to be a high-volume shooter whenever he’s on the court. Gordon has rejuvenated his career with the Rockets, finding his niche as their sixth man. He currently ranks 3rd among bench scorers in points with 18.3 a game, to go along with 2.4 rebounds, and 3 assists. He’s only behind Monta Ellis (19), and Lou Williams (18.8) in points, but Gordon’s contributions have been more meaningful since he’s playing on a team that’s in the top half of their Conference.

With head coach D’Antoni running a fast-tempo offence, Gordon has found his place with the Rockets; stepping up providing an offensive spark and taking over when needed. He’s taken his game to another level, helping the Rockets reach a high level of success while establishing himself as one of the very few candidates for the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year award.

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You can follow Peter Ash on Twitter @peterash_

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