Jrue Holiday delivers in clutch vs. Blazers
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Pelicans.com, @Jim_Eichenhofer
From the day he arrived in New Orleans this summer, Pelicans point guard Jrue Holiday has talked about how excited he was to accept more of a distributing role with his new team, surrounded by several proven NBA scorers. Still, during Monday’s 110-108 thriller over Portland, the “old Holiday” from his Philadelphia days appeared, just in time to spark New Orleans to its finest victory of the 2013-14 season.
In his premier performance to date as a Pelican, Holiday poured in 31 points, to go with 13 assists and seven rebounds. In the fourth quarter, he racked up 15 of New Orleans’ 21 points by sinking jumper after jumper, going 7-for-12 from the field. He also had a key assist to Anthony Davis during a back-and-forth final few minutes.
“It was big,” Tyreke Evans said of Holiday’s crucial fourth quarter. “He had patience. Coming off those screens, taking that mid-range shot, getting to the basket, finding (Davis). He just did everything.”
“I knew that I could come out and hit my shots,” Holiday said. “I just felt good and it came at a good time.”
After leading Philadelphia in scoring during his All-Star season of 2012-13, as expected Holiday has not been required to generate points on a nightly basis for New Orleans (14-15). He’s the Pelicans’ fourth-leading scorer at 15.3 points per game, behind Ryan Anderson (19.9), Anthony Davis (19.5) and Eric Gordon (15.4). Evans, who has enjoyed a tremendous two weeks since returning from an ankle injury, is not far behind at 13.2.
However, Holiday has proven to be more than capable of creating his own offense when the Pelicans have needed it most. In one of the team’s other most memorable games of 2013-14, Holiday dribbled the length of the floor and converted the game-winning three-point play at Chicago on Dec. 2, capping a 19-point, 12-assist night in triple overtime. His new role has enabled him to be a more efficient player as well, increasing his field-goal percentage to a career-best 45.7 this season (up from 43.1 in 2012-13). His three-point percentage of 40.8 is also an NBA high for the fifth-year pro.
The category Holiday most believed would increase in New Orleans was his assist totals. That too has happened, up slightly from 8.0 to 8.3 per game. That’s in conjunction with a decrease in turnover average this season, from 3.7 to 3.1.
In a league where debate often rages about whether it’s preferable to have a pass-first point guard such as Rajon Rondo, or a scoring-minded player like Russell Westbrook, Holiday has shown the ability with New Orleans to play either way. Half of the Pelicans’ 14 wins have come when their starting point guard scores 15 or fewer points, such as a 13-point, 13-assist game vs. the Lakers on Nov. 8.