Jrue Holiday is back and he is glorious! That was fun, right? I cannot be the only New Orleans Pelicans fan that did not thoroughly enjoy tonight’s game. This team played the most complete game of the season and after seizing the lead late in the first quarter would not allow the Portland Trail Blazers back into the game.
In fact the 113-101 score fails to demonstrate the domination this evening. New Orleans led by double digits for the final 20 minutes of the game and was ahead by 18 when head coach Terry Stotts waived the white flag of surrender and subbed out his starters with 1:45 remaining. Just some garbage time buckets by the Portland reserves gave this game the appearance of some competitiveness.
Before I dive into Jrue Holiday’s return we must discuss Anthony Davis. Wow. He started the game slow with his shot and was 1-6 from the field when Holiday checked in with 4:08 remaining in the first quarter for just two points. Davis would log 28 more minutes on the night and shot an absolutely ridiculous 13-16 from the field for 36 points. All three misses came behind the arc. He was perfect from 2-point range. Perfect.
But, that’s not all! Despite the slow shooting start Davis did log five assists on the Pelicans ten made field goals in the first eight minutes of the game. For the game he finished with 38 points, 9 rebounds, 6 assists, 4 blocks, 2 steals, and just 2 turnovers. His jumper was cooking, the post game was superb (he got Ed Davis a couple times on the low block with gorgeous footwork), and Jrue Holiday was making sure to set up the superstar.
That’s a nice transition into the work Jrue Holiday put in tonight. On a minutes restriction and held out of the starting lineup, Holiday logged just over 23 minutes tonight. While much of our staff disagrees with keeping Holiday out of the starting lineup it does make sense to implement some kind of minutes restriction, especially considering the Pelicans have another game tomorrow night against the Charlotte Hornets. Charlotte beat the Atlanta Hawks tonight 100-96.
Holiday made sure to put those minutes to good use scoring 21 points to go along with 7 assists, 2 rebounds, and only one turnover. Defensively he logged a steal and a thunderous block. The Pelicans offense is unrecognizable with Jrue on the court. They get the ball across half court far more quickly and Holiday’s ability to get into the paint at will created quality shots at an extremely high rate. On the other end of the court Holiday spent large amounts of time guarding the Blazers small forward, be it Allen Crabbe or Evan Turner. He pestered passing lanes and communicated to the point of being horse in his post game interview with Jen Hale.
Hopefully Jrue’s time coming off the bench will be limited to this weekend or up until Thanksgiving. There was one negative coming out of Jrue’s return, and that is who lost out on minutes. Rookie Buddy Hield disappeared from the rotation for the most part, logging under seven minutes of playing time. The guards who logged heavy minutes (Tim Frazier, E’Twaun Moore, Holiday, and Langston Galloway) are the veterans and Buddy’s place in the pecking order may become even more precarious with the impending return of Tyreke Evans. It’s nice that the Pelicans might have too many guards, but for the long term their rookie missing out on valuable playing time is something to keep and eye on.
It wasn’t just Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday tonight. Tim Frazier and E’Twaun Moore played very well, especially in the first quarter while Davis was cold. Omer Asik was again effective defensively and even finished a layup in traffic. But, the third star of the night was certainly reserve forward Terrence Jones.
Tonight Jones had 15 points, 7 rebounds, and 4 blocks. It’s the third straight game Jones reached double figures, coinciding with a significant increase in playing time. He still goes into tunnel vision, especially in the half court, and forces ill-advised shots when he believes he has a mismatch. Some of that is probably never getting fully out of his system. In the last couple weeks the Pelicans have been much better defensively with Jones on the court than off, in large part thanks to his shot blocking ability. Tonight those blocks came in bunches, with four total from Jones and another four from Anthony Davis.
No rest for the weary as the Charlotte Hornets come into town for a game tomorrow night. The Hornets are an impressive 8-3 and sport the 6th best net rating in the league. It will be interesting to see how the Pelicans staff manages minutes for Jrue Holiday and if Buddy Hield can gain a foothold in the rotation. For now, celebrate the most complete game of the season to date. Thank goodness Jrue Holiday is back.