Anthony Davis struggled mightily in the first half against the Utah Jazz. In the first 7:42, all without Jrue Holiday, Davis shot a poor 2-7 from the field. This continues an ongoing problem with Holiday's move to the bench (beginning December 4th); Davis has an eFG% of 59.9% after receiving a pass from Holiday in that span while posting a far less impressive 48.7% on other occasions.
After Eric Gordon broke his ring finger (again) Holiday found himself in the "starting lineup" to begin the third quarter. Davis, as expected, relished the time beside the New Orleans Pelicans second best player. The Pelicans brought the score even with under three minutes remaining in the third quarter and Jrue Holiday assisted on five of AD's seven makes. Davis shot 7-10 during that span and much of that work came right at the basket.
If Alvin Gentry's post-game comments are accurate, expect that pairing to become more common as the season winds down. In the process of breaking that news Gentry also provided some insight into part of the reason Holiday has been coming off the bench for so long.
Gentry wasn't angry tonight, but admits the playoffs will take "a miracle" and there comes a time to start thinking about the future (1/2)— Brett Dawson (@BDawsonWrites) March 6, 2016
...and that includes looking at Holiday as a starter going forward. That's why he started second half tonight (2/2).— Brett Dawson (@BDawsonWrites) March 6, 2016
Bringing Jrue Holiday off the bench went beyond limitations of minutes, possessions, or distance Holiday was eligible to log each game. Holiday was coming off the bench to keep an awful reserve unit afloat, giving New Orleans the greatest chance at victory right now. Considering the relative strength of the bench with Holiday and Ryan Anderson paired together (as evidenced by Holiday's superb plus-minus) it was working to some extent.
I am hardly the only writer covering the Pelicans who has lamented the shortsightedness of this approach. Now both Alvin Gentry and Anthony Davis himself seem to be accepting the true nature of the remaining 21 games.
Anthony Davis isn’t publicly giving up on the playoffs. But he gets trying to look ahead in final 21 games, too: pic.twitter.com/4yjTxRwdaP— Brett Dawson (@BDawsonWrites) March 6, 2016
There were a number of positive signs for the future in the second half against the Utah Jazz. Holiday and Davis continue to excel together. Moving Holiday off of the bench units almost ensures the Pelicans will cede enormous runs to the opposition reserves, securing valuable losses (and ping pong balls) for the NBA Draft Lottery. Despite the margin, when the new starting lineup took the floor in the fourth quarter Davis and Holiday led the Pels on a 15-7 run.
Continuing to compete despite the odds instills the kind of culture throughout the organization that Davis spoke about in the locker room. That approach during a game out of reach pays dividends when applied to the practice floor and film room. A trip to the playoffs failed to teach this franchise how to win. Maybe, instead, they can learn to hate losing between now and April 13th.