Jrue Holiday. That’s it, that’s the story of tonight’s game.
With the Pelicans once again missing key pieces such as Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart, New Orleans desperately needed its best player to “dominate” as David Griffin had said over the summer.
And dominate he did. Holiday scored a season-high 36 points and added seven assists, six steals (including five in the fourth quarter) and five threes in the Pelicans 132-127 win over the Los Angeles Clippers.
“My teammates tell me I need to be aggressive for us to win,” Holiday said to Jen Hale after the game. “Looking at the basket to score, not just to pass out. I kind of looked for myself a little more tonight.”
Holiday had a season-high 24 points in the first half and, per Andrew Lopez, scored or assisted on 22 of New Orleans’ 36 fourth quarter points. But it wasn’t just the offense that was going for Holiday, the defense that he’s long been known for was on full display with the game in the balance.
When Holiday was the primary defender on LA’s Paul George in the fourth quarter, who made his Clipper debut Thursday night, George had one basket and three turnovers. George had a great overall game by posting 33 points in 24 minutes, but working with five fouls and getting hounded by the stingy defense of Holiday late kept George from rising to the occasion.
But it wasn’t just Holiday that had a standout performance for the Pelicans. Derrick Favors recorded his first ever 20/20 game of his career and became the fifth Pelican player ever to achieve that feat.
As for the other starters, E’Twaun Moore was lethal from three, hitting three of six and finishing with 15 points; JJ Redick also knocked down three threes, and wound up with 19 points; and Kenrich Williams made so many effort plays tonight, and had a near double-double with eight points and 10 rebounds.
Frank Jackson quietly had one of the best 23-point outings you’ll see from an NBA player. Jackson was two off his career high and hit four of seven three-pointers in 23 minutes. Jaxon Hayes also showed some growth on the night as the rookie had nine points in 13 minutes. Hayes flashed his intoxicating athleticism and brought energy to the Pelicans with his effort near and around the rim. His height and ability to jump out of the Smoothie King Center provided a security blanket for Pelican guards to drive to the lane and throw up a contested shot. If the shot wouldn’t fall, the guards could rest easy knowing Hayes was likely going to soar above the opposition and grab the miss.
The Clippers were playing the second game of a back-to-back, spending Wednesday night in Houston, and the fatigue showed up on the boards. New Orleans out-rebounded Los Angeles 52-37 and had 13 more offensive rebounds than the Clippers.
This was not a Clipper team at full strength. Los Angeles was without Kawhi Leonard, Landry Shamet and Patrick Beverly and Paul George appeared in his first game since last April. However, this was not a fully equipped Pelican team either. No Ingram, no Ball, no Hart, no Okafor and no Zion. It wound up being no problem for New Orleans and the Pelicans got their third win of the season.
New Orleans will travel to Miami and play the Heat on Saturday evening. Geaux Pels!