NBA Playoffs 2018: Anthony Davis erupts in first playoff win, but it was Jrue Holiday that saved the Pelicans in Game 1
If Anthony Davis is the force that makes the Pelicans go, then Jrue Holiday is the navigator keeping New Orleans on course. Their efforts in the regular season led them to a playoff appearance despite losing DeMarcus Cousins in the middle of the season. Saturday night, in the playoffs, it was Davis and Holiday once again coming up big when the Pelicans needed them most.
Davis was a force of nature from the start of the Pelicans’ 97-95 Game 1 win over the Blazers. Using his long arms and insane athleticism, he was able to force Portland on to its back heel quickly. The Trail Blazers were forced to play catch-up the rest of the night while Davis feasted on his way to 35 points, 14 rebounds, and four blocks.
Davis was always going to be the best player on the floor in this series. No discredit to Damian Lillard, but Davis’ ability to impact both ends of the floor is unmatchable. The Blazers spent the entire night looking over their shoulders out of fear that Davis would come in and swat their attempts away. It made routine shots at the rim far more difficult. That’s exactly what someone like Davis needs to do.
However, as great as Davis was, he didn’t win the game for New Orleans. That honor goes to Holiday. The Pelicans guard was phenomenal offensively, but his defense was second to none. He spent the entire night harassing Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum into a combined 13-for-41 shooting performance.
Despite this poor shooting, Portland managed to come back from a 19-point deficit and put themselves within three. With less than 15 seconds remaining, the Blazers opted to attempt a quick two instead of a 3-pointer. Holiday poked the ball loose and forced a second attempt from behind their own basket.
The Blazers ran the same exact play and Holiday saw it happening. He came up with the clutch block that would seal the game.
Holiday finished with 21 points, seven rebounds, two assists, and two clutch defensive plays that stopped Portland’s comeback attempt. Davis is going to deservedly make the headlines for his performance, but it might have come in a loss were it not for Holiday’s defense.
This is how it has been for the Pelicans all season. Davis makes the big, splashy plays that gets the attention. Meanwhile, Holiday quietly does the rest of the necessary work to get wins. It’s what got them through the regular season, and it’s continuing in the playoffs. Some plans are best kept simple. Give the ball to Davis, get out of his way, and let Holiday clean up any messes. We’ll see if that’s enough for a deep playoff run.