Apr 17, 2018; Portland, OR, USA; New Orleans Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday (11) reacts after scoring late during the fourth quarter in game two of the first round of the 2018 NBA Playoffs against the Portland Trail Blazers at the Moda Center. The Pelicans w

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What to watch for tonight in Pelicans-Blazers game 3

Holiday's defense, "Playoff Rondo", and more

Seth Dunlap
April 19, 2018 - 3:20 pm

1. Who is Jrue Holiday guarding?

In the first seven quarters of this series, and almost exclusively during the Pelicans-Blazers games throughout the season, Holiday has been matched up on Portland star Damian Lillard.   I detailed the outstanding job Holiday has done on Lillard throughout the season earlier this week, and it would make sense for the Pelicans to continue doing what’s worked so well for them.  However, Holiday switched off to guard C.J. McCollum midway through the 4th quarter of Game 2 and stayed with him the rest of the way.   McCollum, who had 21 points to lead the Blazers at that point, didn’t score the rest of the game with Holiday shadowing him.   If McCollum, who averaged 21.4 points per game on the year, heats up early again in this game you may see Jrue slide over his way to try and slow him down.   Keep an eye on who Holiday is guarding throughout the game.


2.  Will “Playoff Rondo” continue to show up?

To say the Pelicans offense goes the way of Rajon Rondo might be a bit of an understatement.    Rondo has a whopping 31 assists in this first two games, and was one rebound why of a triple double in game two.   Perhaps most noticeable is his aggression attacking the hoop in this series.  We’ve seen countless times where Rondo drives to the bucket and scores when it’s obvious that Portland was expecting a pass out of his dribble drive.  They wouldn’t be wrong for expecting that – it’s what Rondo has done all season, up to this point.  However, “Playoff Rondo” is here and he’s shown no hesitation to score when needed.   The Blazers may also be hesitant to leave him alone at the three point line after his dagger late in Game 2.   If Rondo continues to average 11 points, 14 assists, and 9 rebounds per game like he has so far in this series then the Pelicans will be extremely tough to beat.


3.   Will the Blazers bigs continue to frustrate Anthony Davis?

Don’t be confused by the bullet point – AD has still been the best player in this series ouside of Jrue Holiday, averaging 28.5 points, 13.5 rebounds, and playing great interior defense.   Yet one story line that got buried after the Pelicans came back to win Game 2 was the way the Portland bigs had  Davis visibly frustrated throughout that game.   There were times when AD, who is one of the more even keeled stars in the NBA, lost his cool on the court.   There were two back to back offensive possessions in the second half when Davis could have easily been called for offensive fouls, or even flagrant elbows, when retaliating against some physical post defense.    Davis was even seen jacking up a contested three soon thereafter, very uncharacteristic for him during this seven game winning streak for the Pelicans.  He is getting just his second real taste of physical playoff basketball and it seems to have him frustrated at key times.  Davis will be fine, and he’ll learn to adjust.   Watch those battles away from the ball tonight to see if those adjustments are there. 


4.  How will Alvin Gentry continue to manage playing time?

Alvin Gentry has not gotten enough credit for his role in the Pelicans turnaround season, nor has he received enough credit for his coaching job in this series.  Gentry has been masterful managing the minutes of Davis, Holiday, and Rondo while dealing with a relatively short, and ineffective, bench.   If Twitter is any indication, the casual viewer is getting frustrated with seeing those three sitting on the sidelines in a tight ballgame, especially early on.   However, that just has to happen if the Pelicans are going to have playoff longevity.  Sacrificing a few points in order to keep your three most important players fresh throughout the game is a pretty fair trade.   Look for Gentry to get AD another extended breather early – he got a nearly four minute rest at the end of the first quarter in Game 2.   Also, getting Holiday some time on the bench throughout the game is critical.  He can’t be expected to continue to play this well on both ends of the court if tired legs catch up to him. 


5.   Will the stellar officiating in this series continue?

This might sound like a total homer headline, but it’s not.   I tweeted this when the Pelicans were down nine in the first half of Game 2, and I meant it.

The officiating in this series has been top notch.  Have there been a few missed calls?  Sure, there always are, but the way they are letting these two teams play is noticeable.   The officials are letting the bigs bang inside, even to the frustration of Anthony Davis like we mentioned above, and we aren’t seeing those typical bail out calls when guys drive to the basket.  The flow to these games has been fantastic, and a big credit must go to the on court officials.  Let's recognize just how great the officiating has been in the first two games, and hope that it continues in Game 3 tonight.

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